Artist Harn Lay Wins Hellman/Hammett Grant
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Artist Harn Lay Wins Hellman/Hammett Grant


By LAWI WENG Wednesday, April 28, 2010


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Harn Lay, The Irrawaddy's illustrator and cartoonist, has received a Hellman/Hammett grant for his political cartoons and art penned against the Burmese regime.

Marcia Allina, the coordinator of the grant program for Human Rights Watch based in New York City, told The Irrawaddy that Harn Lay was selected without debate by the selection committee, made up of widely respected writers and editors.

Cartoonist Harn Lay (Photo: Moe Kyaw/The Irrawaddy)

“I assume it was because the message [his art] is so clear, and he qualified as a persecuted person because he had to flee for his personal safety. He is a perfect example of someone who was targeted for expressing ideas that the government wanted to suppress,” she said.

The recognition comes with a grant, which ranges from $500 to $10,000.

Harn Lay, 44, an ethnic Shan artist, graduated from the Rangoon School of Fine Arts Academy. He is based in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, and he is well-known for his political cartoons.

Burmese politics made him a cartoonist, Harn Lay said. He fled to Thailand following Burma's pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

Harn Lay has specialized in satirizing Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the head of the Burmese military. His work appears in The Irrawaddy online website and in the monthly print magazine, where he frequently illustrates magazine cover stories and articles. He also exhibits fine art oil paintings, most often in portraiture and landscapes.

“To me, art is for impression and cartoons are for expression,” said Harn Lay. “I am very proud when my work is recognized because in its own way it fights for human rights. The Burmese people are starved for human rights. We were born with human rights, and we want our rights back as soon as possible.”

Human Rights Watch administers the Hellman/Hammett grants, awarded to writers and artists around the world who have been targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989 when the popular American playwrite Hellman set aside part of her estate to be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of their expression of dissenting views.

Her companion, novelist Dashiell Hammett, was the author of The Maltese Falcon and other books. They were staunch advocates of freedom of expression, and both stood up against a US congressional committee in the 1950s that was engaged in “a witch hunt” to expose people who were allegedly Communist sympathizers.

Allina said, “The grant is meant to support and defend free expression, especially in opposition to government efforts to suppress and control human rights. Our message to the Burmese people is have courage...and that people around the world care.”

There is no freedom of expression in Burma, where the regime censors media. The regime has arrested journalists, writers, bloggers, photographers, politicians and others and sentenced them to long prison terms for criticizing or exposing their actions. There are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma.

Over the past 20 years, more than 700 writers from 93 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants, including Burmese writers and democracy activists such as Tin Moe, Saw Wai, Tun Aung, bloggers Nay Phone Latt, Zarganar, and the Burmese human rights defender Bo Kyi, the co-director of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma.

COMMENTS (10)
 
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An & P: Wrote:
29/04/2010
Myy,Suunghka;!!!

Dear Sao Aow!

Congratulation for your long years of hard work for Peace !

So proud of P'Nong Tai, too.!!!

Larn,
[email protected]:

Khoez Wrote:
29/04/2010
I truly believe Saya Harn Lay deserves the world's recognition for his determination to tell the world of Burma through his sketches. The skill is undeniable.

And Congratulations to Saya Harn Lay. We all are more than happy to hear you have won the world's recognition.

hope Wrote:
29/04/2010
Congratulations! You truly deserve this. We always smiled or laughed looking at your cartoons, but always with pain in our hearts. It is always painful to see or hear the truth in Burma. Keep drawing!!!

Free Man Wrote:
29/04/2010
Congratulations!

Kyi May Kaung Wrote:
28/04/2010
Harn Lay,

Sincere congratulations.

Lillian Hellman said, "I can't tailor my ideas to suit the cut of the times."

Hammett advised her to plead guilty as he thought she would not survive prison, where he was during J. Edgar Hoover's communist witch hunt.

Kyi May Kaung

thu ri ya burma Wrote:
28/04/2010
You did the good work and you deserve this. Congratulation!

Myo Chit Wrote:
28/04/2010
Congratulations Harn Lay !
I am an admirer of your art works. I think I was the first person to recognize your work in the Irrawaddy online that was published in the Letter to Editor section in 1995 that was captioned "Our Cartoonist gets an Applause". I hope you remember my word then " Reach for the sky" in it. I wrote again in 2009 in the comment to article, admiring your work on a very appropriate expression on a particular topic. You might remember I mentioned "you have greater talent than famous cartoonist U Ba Gyan". It was for your prompt and touching portrayal on a current event then.
I could imagine, your cartoons could be making the junta supremmo twitch and tremble with rage.
Your cartoons could be wearing him down in his expertise (psycho-warfare) by damaging his self-portrayed image as the " KING OF KYAT-PYAY DYNASTY", making him a "nervous breakdown victim" in his glorified NUT HOUSE of Naypyidaw Palace.
Carry on HL, recognition matters, not
money.

Ko Maung Wrote:
28/04/2010
Congratulation SaYar Harn lay. Well deserved for the award.

Maythuza Wrote:
28/04/2010
Congratulation" Ko Harn Lay you deserve it.

Kerry Wrote:
28/04/2010
Wonderful! Congratulations in consistently finding wonderful humour in unbelievable grimness.

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