UNESCO supports the promotion of peace in Myanmar through young artist’s colouring book project of ethnic proverbs
A new 52-page colouring book of ethnic Myanmar proverbs has been published by the Mon Youth Educator Organization (MYEO) with support from the UNESCO Myanmar Office.
‘When cattle split, the greater the chance to expose the herd to a tiger.’
‘If there are bamboos, you can cross the river. If there are people united, they can finish the work faster and easier.’
‘If you compete with your mind, you will gain knowledge. If you compete with force, you will only get hurt.’
‘Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness and overcome our anger.’
These Myanmar proverbs and 36 others make up a 52-page colouring book for young children just published by the Mon Youth Educator Organization (MYEO) with support from UNESCO.
The objective of the ‘Colouring Book of Myanmar Proverbs Project’ was multifaceted: to teach positive values to young children using art; to preserve ethnic proverbs which should be handed down to the next generation; to inculcate interest in art itself; to enhance creativity and artistic expression; and to engage young volunteers in community activities.
About 1,000 proverbs were collected from ethnic libraries and elders in Mon state by MYEO staff supported by three ethnic youth volunteers. Proverbs on themes of peace, unity, social cohesion, diversity, and inclusiveness were selected.
Phone Wint Kyaw, a 39-year-old local artist – he once worked as an editorial cartoonist for a local newspaper in Yangon – was commissioned to transcribe the selected proverbs into illustrations ready for children’s colouring.
Three thousand colouring books were printed for distribution in 22 national schools and other learning spaces in various townships of Mon State. Colouring books were also donated for young monks staying at Save the Mon Children Monastery in Mudon Township and in Chaungzon Township. MYEO staff and youth volunteers were present in organized colouring sessions not only to assist the children but also to explain to them the full meanings of the proverbs.
The colouring book sessions were complemented by a drawing competition for young people, ages 6 to 18, on the theme of ‘Peace’. Forty-four children – 30 girls and 14 boys – participated at 22 learning spaces. Eight entries were eventually selected as winners: three at the ‘top-level’, with the remainder receiving consolation prizes. In addition, a live painting contest was held on 15 January, followed by a ceremony announcing contest winners on 28 January.
The drawing competition was conceived as a community affair, and it succeeded in mobilizing children, parents, youth volunteers, and local community leaders and other members. MYEO describes activities leading to the final event as full of fun and excitement. MYEO believes these activities contributed to a wider realization among the community that achieving peace and social cohesion begins with children and young people, and that it ‘takes a village’ to achieve these goals.
Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) once wrote, ‘Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.’ To local communities of Mon State, art inspires the people to seek and pursue their vision of peace.
The Colouring Book of Myanmar Proverbs Project was supported by the UNESCO Myanmar Office through the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund, Preventing Hate Speech and Promoting Peaceful Society Through Media and Information Literacy.
For more information: yangon(at)unesco.org.
Reported by Ramon Guillermo R. Tuazon, UNESCO Myanmar International Consultant, Yangon