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Yangon is the biggest city in Myanmar and has an aura all its own with streetscapes of Burmese architecture mixed with British buildings from its colonial days when the capital was known as Rangoon. This exhibition presents photographic works that focus on the cityscape of Yangon and the people who make a living on its streets. Though negative images of the military junta and ethnic conflicts might resonate with some people, these works show signs of lives and livelihoods in Myanmar changing for the better as the country transitions to democracy.
Myanmar is made up of about 70% Burmese and a number of minorities, but Chihiro Kobayashi sees Yangon more as a multinational, multireligious city than a multiethnic city. To explain herself, she put it this way: “I was blown away by the locals telling me that ‘People came from lots of countries to wage war.’ I hear Myanmar is 90% Buddhist, but people of every race live in Yangon and there are all sorts of places to pray and worship. Moreover, they live, coexist and are one with nature. It is a very adaptive city that is strong at the core but flexible.”
Kobayashi has captured the peace and serenity of Myanmar personified by small children on the streets with their faces covered in white powder to block the sun and the quietude emanated by stray dogs laying freely about the street vendors. She also queues into the young women striding about the city in their skinny jeans and stylish pumps - a far cry from the long cylindrical longyi that many men and women traditionally wore before. These and other works will immerse you in the slow transformation Yangon is going through today to escape from a taxing past.
Studied photography and visual design at the Kuwasawa Design School and painting at the Yokohama University of Art and Design.