Sawangwongse Yawnghwe


Born in 1971, Shan State. Lives and works in Amsterdam.


He comes from the Yawnghwe royal family of the Shan. His grandfather, Sao Shwe Thaik, was the first president of the Union of Burma (1948–1952) after the country gained independence from Britain in 1948. Shwe Thaik died in prison following the 1962 military coup led by General Ne Win. Afterwards, Yawnghwe's family was driven into exile. He spent his formative years in Chiangmai, after which his family fled to Canada. He now lives and works in the Netherlands.


Sawangwongse Yawnghwe's works critique dominant Burma-centric artistic and historical narratives by presenting a personal, counter-historiography, such as the construction of a fictional museum. A recurring theme in his work is suppression – what remains under the surface or hidden. Yawnghwe's acute use of investigative methodology is tempered by his philosophical approach to state-centric historiography in which narratives of non-Burman minorities are dismantled and erased.