Changing Yangon – Pegu Club

Copyright Catriona Knapman

Children Play at the Pegu Club, Yangon, 2013: Copyright Catriona Knapman

“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down…”

Quote from R.Kipling, From Sea to Sea

Once the exclusive club for British Expats during the Burmese Colonial period, now creaking floorboards, smashed windows, broken stairways the building are all that remain to show something of what it used to be … bridge games, ballroom dances, swirling stairwells, cocktails at four. It is waiting for a developer with a passion for restoring the past; however all the new apartment towers in the city suggest that they are not what most developers are dreaming for the new Yangon. There used to be a ‘no traditional dress’ rule which excluded the Burmese from entering the club, today Burmese children play together in the overgrown gardens … as we have all heard, times are changing in Yangon.

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Burma/Myanmar is one of the countries featured in my Edinburgh Fringe Show ‘Out On The World’. 16.15 at Opium Bar on the Cowgate 6 – 16 August 2016.

Come along if you are in Edinburgh.

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Information for travellers:

Visit the Pegu Club on Zagawar Street, off Pyay Road, near the Taw Win Centre, Yangon, Burma.
Entrance is free.

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I am writing a poem a day for April

Hello everyone,

April is National Poetry Month. Once again (for the third year in a row!) I am writing a poem a day for Tiferet Journal as part of their poemathon fundraiser.

*You might remember this and this from last year or this from my first year.*

A poem a day seems a lot, especially when you have a lot to do, but each time I commit I like the practice. I have found that a lot turns up in my writing by having to produce someone else will read at the end of day. It is also completely counter my tendency to write and then wait a long time to publish. It is a different rhythm and a good one. Things come up – both good and bad – then you can write about them.

This year I am enjoying writing about the changes in Yangon, as well as observing what comes up from my sub-concious. I hope to also explore some more performance poems, if I find the right inspiration.

You can read what I have been writing here and here I will also post poems to this site.

Also – very importantly – you can show your support to this creative month and give a few dollars to poetry by sponsoring me. Follow this link and click on the sponsor a poet button.

Lots of love,

Mandala

A lovely mandala which was shared as writing prompt. 

Lucky Dip: Where are designer clothes changing attitudes to poverty?

Tolouse and his similarly dressed crew, who call themselves the Commandos, are wearing outfits that, “kop to tail” (head to toe), cost up to $1,120 each. In South Africa, groups like this are called skhothanes, an adaptation of a Zulu word meaning “to lick” or “to boast.” The day’s occasion is similar to a dance-off, but the broader subculture it is a part of, known as izikhothane, is specific to the “born free” generation—those born at the end of apartheid—living in the townships of South Africa. Born-frees like Tolouse have no direct memory of a time when nonwhites lived in townships like Soweto by force instead of economic stagnation.

As they skhot (boast) about the names of the high-end Italian brands they’re sporting—Arbiter, Rossi Moda, Sfarzo—they never fail to mention the price tag, too. For young men living in a country where economic development hasn’t translated into what’s needed most—jobs for young people—skhothane culture is not just a way to stand out, but a way for young South Africans to move up in a society that offers them few options. While this social mobility may be more perceived than actual, one township local summed up their motivation nicely: “When they do what they do, absolutely no one can do it better. They feel like kings.”

 

Despite this evolution, headlines such as “Why Are Poor South African Teens Buying Expensive Clothes and Destroying Them?” still persist. Such stories follow a simple logic: Removed from the struggle of apartheid, these morally bankrupt and entitled youths ostensibly see no problem wasting the money that not long ago their parents would have barely been able to earn. These headlines imply a more loaded question: Why would anyone in Soweto spend their money on anything but getting out of Soweto?

 

 

Photo by Motheo Modaguru Moeng.

Photo by Motheo Modaguru Moeng.

Greg Potterton, managing director of Instant Grass, a Johannesburg-based agency that specializes in studying pockets of youth culture in Africa, says that in a place like Soweto—which is bordered by freeways and was designed during apartheid to be isolated—Tshepo’s local pride is often a product of circumstance. “When a lot of these kids are growing up, they really don’t have much option or aspirations to go anywhere else because they didn’t know about anything else,” Potterton says. “Then, you get reverse innovation happening: In the absence of luxury, creativity is born. Over time, it’s become a cooler place to be.”

 

From Soweto Style by Rosie J Spinks in Roads and Kingdoms

Lucky Dip: Let The Storm Wash The Plates

In memory of the great Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, who died on the 17 August 2010. He was Scots Makar and Glasgow Poet Laureate. His poems made up a considerable proportion of my Secondary School education and his images of Glasgow past and present in particular formed part of my understanding of the identity of the city where I grew up. Yet his work was far more extensive, covering world issues, inter-galactic travel and transcribing the song of the infamous Loch Ness Monster.

This piece was listed as one of the fifty greatest modern love poems and it is the one I immediately thought must be included in such a list. It is light and sweet, like the strawberries, but rich in colour, taste, texture and passion. The last line, so flippant, yet so memorable, seems to say it all.

Strawberries

STRAWBERRIES

There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory

lean back again

let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

Read more of Edwin Morgan’s poems at The Scottish Poetry Library Website and on Edwin Morgan.com.