Sawangwongse Yawnghwe

b. 1971, Shan State, Burma
Lives and works in the Netherlands

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe comes from the Yawnghwe royal family of Shan. His grandfather, Sao Shwe Thaik, was the first president of the Union of Burma (1948–1962) after the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. Shwe Thaik died in prison following the 1962 military coup by General Ne Win. Since then, Yawnghwe’s family was driven into exile. They stayed in Thailand, then escaped to Canada, where Yawnghwe grew up and received an education.

Yawnghwe’s painting and installation practice engages politics with reference to his family history as well as current and historical events in his country. Family photographs also provide the basis for a pictorial language through which he explores events in the country, suggesting that existing and available archives cannot reveal a nation’s entire truth. In addition, Yawnghwe’s work of maps charts the conflicts between drugs such as heroin and amphetamines, revolutionary armies, minority ethnicities, mining and gas pipelines, the armament of generals, as well as state genocide against its minorities. He intends to bring discernible order to a complex political situation.

Country: Myanmar