HEDDA launches cultural program for Myanmar

Posted on December 10th, by Nina Hodneland in News, Nyhet, Projects. Comments Off on HEDDA launches cultural program for Myanmar


The goal of the program is to support music, literature and culture in Myanmar for performing artists, to provide a road to build pride in cultural plurality and an open society as prerequisites for building a resilient society that is open and inclusive and operates with integrity. This program will seek to establish contact with relevant partners in the process. As part of the objective to strengthen the cultural heritage, we will support establishment of music schools and House of Literature as a long term investment in the future of the country.

One of the most important and urgent goals will be to restore the music schools of Gitameit to make them capable fully to offer a place where the most promising youth of the country can develop their musical skills. Today the school buildings in Yangon are almost falling apart, with special challenges in the monsoon period. It will be both a long term cultural investment for the future, as well as hugely inspiring for young musicians.

Both the music festival and the literary festival will contribute to both local and national involvement and community participation for young and old. The festivals will create new spaces for people to meet, experience cultural performances of high quality and participate in practicing the newly established democracy.

The program is financed by Kulturstiftelsen, The Swedish post code lottery. Program period: January 1, 2015 – July 1, 2016.

 The program consists of five projects:

  • Gitameit music school in Yangon: Rehabilitation of the school and strengthening of the teaching capacity and educational program.
  • Gitameit music school in Mandalay: Secure permanent locality and strengthening of the teaching capacity and educational program.
  • Stars at Inle Lake (SAIL): Create an annual music festival, support first year as a part of the program.
  • Nobel Literary Festival (NLF): Create an annual literary festival, support first year as a part of the program.
  • Pilot study for the establishment of a House of Literature in Yangon

The program will be a unique contribution to Myanmar’s youth having access to learning music and theater; to facilitating both fiction and non-fiction writers in meeting and developing  platforms for free speech; to involving and uniting disparate groups in the local community in the cultural process. The program will contribute to the enhancement of life quality for potentially large regional and national audiences.

The outcome of this project will be:

  • Improved possibility for children to play traditional and classical music, professionalization of music life in Myanmar, through the two music schools.
  • Increased knowledge about music heritage and respect for cultural diversity as well as reduced poverty in the region around Inle Lake, through SAIL.
  • Increased freedom of speech and reestablishing the position of the writer as an important participant in cultural life and creation of democracy, through NLF.
  • First step in a more democratic use of public space, and organizing of civil society, through the House of Literature.

Target groups

Target groups for Gitameit will first and foremost be children and youth with musical ambitions, but it will also include adults that earlier have not had the possibility to pursue their musical career because of the regime. In Yangon app. 150 students a year (50 adults and 100 children), in Mandalay 70 students (20 adult and 50 children).

Target groups for SAIL and NLF are primary local, national and international artists, people interested in traditional art and music, primarily targeting local communities, secondarily audiences from the whole country of Myanmar. Both festivals will directly involve more than 100 artists, they will have the potential to reach 50-100 000 local audience, and a national audience through television more than 1 million.

Target groups for the pilot study will primarily be writers and writers’ associations and secondarily both national and international audiences. Organizations like Myanmar Writers Association, Myanmar Writers Union, Myanmar Translator Association, PEN Myanmar will be included. These organizations have around 5 000 members. The house will also include the NLF.

Collaborative partners

The Gitameit Music Center will be our main partner from the Burmese side. In Pali and Burmese, “gita” means music, and “meit” means friendship. Gitameit Music Center was started in 2003 by pianist Kit Young and her colleagues from Myanmar in order to build a supportive community of musicians and audiences locally, and to encourage sustained, meaningful contact with teachers, performers from international institutions. Gitameit Music Center is a non-profit community center and music school in downtown Yangon devoted to music teaching nurturing, performing. It offers exchange possibilities for Burmese students to study abroad, and invites international artists and teachers for performances and workshops in Yangon. Gitameit’s holistic and high standard music program includes Western, Burmese music and theater practice in performance and education. In 2009, Gitameit established a new campus in Mandalay, and hopes to develop two more schools in the years to come in Shan state and Kachin state.

SAIL is a six-month skills-training initiative on the west bank of Inle that communicates in a locally owned, income generating, three days-long ethnic culture festival with a positive and visible community impact. We will basically work with the SAIL director Bram Steenhuisen. Bram co-organized the MTV EXIT Live in Myanmar concert, held Dec 2012, to raise awareness on human trafficking. With an audience of 70.000 it was broadcast on national TV. Bram Steenhuisen has an Intha host-mother and lived in Inle from June 2013 to learn Burmese and start planning the festival.

The key organizers of NLF and partners of this program are two Myanmar media organizations: Peoples’ Age Journal (PAJ) and DVB Multimedia Group (DVB). PAJ is one of the leading weekly journals in the country, and is well known for its critical and political commentaries. Editors of the PAJ are amongst the most prominent writers and editors in the country. DVB is a one of the most well-known TV news channels in the country, and has 22 years of experience. Previously based in Norway, DVB has now established operations in Myanmar legally. PAJ and DVB will invite other partner(s) and sponsors to make the festival more successful and make a greater impact.

The main partner of the pilot study will be Yangon Heritage Trust. YHT was founded in March 2012 by Dr Thant Myint-U and a group of like-minded architects, business people, historians, and others dedicated to preserving the city’s unique architectural legacy. Conservation of Yangon’s rich architectural heritage plays a vital role in making Yangon one of the most livable and vibrant cities in Asia. YHT’s mission is to advocate for heritage protection, develop policy options, advise the government, present ideas to the public, undertake specific conservation projects, facilitate training, and organize studies and conferences.

Long term effect and sustainability of the program

On short term we expect the program to be implemented as scheduled in the plans. This means new music schools, successful festivals and a clear result of the pilot study.

On long term we expect Gitameit to be the highest standard of music school for the most qualified students in Myanmar, and this will constitute a model and foundation for the future musical life in the country. The schools will be sustainable for many years after the project period (through self-generating income, local donor sponsorship and fundraising) We also expect these schools to be an important recruitment for the establishment of a new philharmonic orchestra in Myanmar, a project we will start working on in the years to come.

In the long term, both the festivals will contribute to local involvement, a pluralistic cultural life in Myanmar and strengthening of democracy through participation and free speech. It will inspire new voices and create new arenas for the people of Myanmar to meet and communicate. This is desperately needed in Myanmar today

The pilot study of the House of Literature will lay down the cornerstone of creating an exciting democratic meeting place in Yangon, including providing office space for relevant associations, places for writers to come and work from all over the country, a unique room for children for reading and play (which, by the way, has not been available before), exhibition area, café and a book store. It will be a hub for establishing a new freedom of speech culture based on the possibility of public dialogue and cooperation.

This program will improve the capacity of the Hedda Foundation to take on larger cultural development programs. It will increase our knowledge about Myanmar’s cultural heritage and possibility to create a better future for all the people of the country. This knowledge will be used in a long term engagement for building democracy and human rights in the country.


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