Charity auction for Suu Kyi bust to start at $32,000

A bronze bust of Aung San Suu Kyi by Norwegian sculptor Merete Sejersted Bodtker. Photo: Coconuts Yangon

A bronze bust of Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will be auctioned off at a charity fundraiser next month at a floor price of K50 million (US$32,000).

The Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity founded by the state counsellor and named after her mother, is partnering with Yangon’s Sedona Hotel in holding the Black-Tie Charity Gala Dinner on Oct. 5. The organizers aim to raise at least US$70,000, which will be contributed to “worthy causes”.

“The reason why we want to hold an auction is that foreign scholars highly respect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It is a gesture of honoring her. This is for charity purposes. The money will go to Daw Khin Kyi Foundation for public welfare,” said Dr. Than Thaw Kaung, an executive committee member for the foundation, at a press conference at the Sedona Hotel on Tuesday.

The bust was created by Norwegian sculptor Merete Sejersted Bodtker, who has been involved in the Myanmar art scene since 2013. Its use as a gesture of respect to the state counsellor follows a growing trend of confronting her critics through art.

In Oct. 2017, a group of painters assembled in a Yangon gallery to paint portraits Suu Kyi to protest the removal of a different portrait of her that had been from an Oxford University building. Then, in February, Yangon’s regional government hung a portrait of Suu Kyi from a construction site overlooking Maha Bandoola Park.

However, critics of the state counsellor, who say she has failed to protect civilians from military violence, particularly during the genocide of the Rohingya, have distanced themselves from Suu Kyi-themed art. Several human rights campaigners who petitioned street artist Shepard Fairey to create a portrait of Suu Kyi to raise money for their Myanmar operations say the portrait does not represent her political record.

An online petition is calling for some of the funds from next month’s gala to be contributed to supporting Rohingya refugees, who have been displaced from Myanmar by military violence. However, when questioned about the petition, Dr. Than Thaw Kaung said: “That is a political issue. We are not political.”

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