Documentary reveals the challenges of being a woman artist

It is no secret that gender discrimination is pervasive in Myanmar. Even those in the highest of positions are not exempt – and the arts are no different.

Telling women’s stories. Photo - Supplied.Telling women’s stories. Photo - Supplied.

Women artists in Myanmar face a double challenge of being taken seriously and respected as both an artist and as a woman.

Though Myanmar has a long history of women contributing to the arts, the works of many important female figures has gone largely unreported.

That is until director Mie Mie came along. Her new 15 minute documentary The Lives of Women in the Arts follows the lives of three veteran artists, Myint Myint Tin, Khin Than Phyu and Sandar Khaing.

“The main point is to highlight the power and varied talent of woman artists here by showing their daily lives,” said Mie Mie.

“Khin Than Phyu gave me so much insight about being a woman artist and documenting her life has been so interesting.”

The three women represent the older generation of woman artists who had to fight for recognition.

Myint Myint Tin, 70, began her artistic career as a gallery owner in Yangon and went on to establish the career of many other artists.

When Mie Mie approached her about the film, Myint Myint Tin was taken aback.

“Most directors are not interested in women artists,” she admitted. “Women artists face many challenges and I’m happy to have the chance to speak on behalf of women. We need to continue, never rest.”

She continued, speaking in an almost sing-song manner: “Good, better, best. Never let us rest until our good is better and our better is best!”

Artist and writer Khin Than Phyu felt similarly proud to participate in the film. The 65-year-old currently oversees the art magazine, Art in Myanmar in addition to sketching and painting.

Perhaps the most well-known of the trio outside of Myanmar is Sandar Khaing. The painter has exhibited her work throughout Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.

As a woman artist herself, director Mie Mie knows just how difficult it is to be recognised for one’s work.

In the film she says she purposefully displays “the connection between their photos and their speech, how they struggle throughout their lives to make a place for themselves in the art world.”

The documentary is as much an exploration of what it means to be a woman artist in Myanmar as it is a testament to their love of art and aesthetics.

The Lives of Women in the Arts is Mie Mie’s first creative documentary.

In addition to the new short, Mie Mie has also directed commercial work. Most recently her film, The History of International Women’s Day, was co-produced by international NGOs in Myanmar and premiered at the 2016 International Women’s Day celebrations.

From commercial work to more creative ventures, Mie Mie is interested in the unequal treatment borne by women, especially those in a pursuit close to her heart.

Across the board she’s found that woman artists, unlike their male counterparts, routinely face discrimination, whether rich or poor, no matter their background.

This fact, which may seem obvious to those that are marginalised in society, is something Mie Mie finds important to share with wider audiences.