Myanmar, Visual Arts, 2022, in Berlin


Zoncy Heavenly, Women having longer tongues after eating cauliflowers, 2013; public performance, Dakha Green Road; Photo: Gim Gwang Cheol

Zoncy Heavenly is an artist of passionate conviction. Every project she begins is grounded in her belief that artists have a responsibility to activate their social and political networks to inspire change in society and the self. Her first foray into the Yangon art scene was through New Zero Art Space, a platform founded in 2008 to introduce young artists to contemporary art and performance. Zoncy has a natural affinity for live and action-based artforms and a willingness to explore pressing issues around feminist themes and ethnic minority struggles in her home country of Myanmar, impressing her fellow artists with her daring and unmediated connection with audiences.
Her most notable ongoing performance project is titled “Unknown Women.” Titles of past performances capture the empathy Zoncy feels for women everywhere: Unwanted Pregnancy; Cowardly Feminist; Pridefully in Womanhood. In an interview with Intersections gallery, Zoncy describes the context of Unknown Women 03: Queens of Nature: “I focused on the flower faces. In works of literature, music or art, women have been symbolised as flowers. Women’s adultery is represented as the blossom of a flower, and in a similar cliché a flower is torn apart when a woman has been sexually abused. The torn flower is an object just as her body is objectified in the abuse.” Another poignant piece from the “Unknown” series is WHO? – a devastating performance action for justice in the name of two Kachin teachers who were raped and murdered in 2015, allegedly by Burmese military soldiers. In it, she cries and wails, recounting the experience of so many who heard the news.
Beyond performance, Zoncy is an archivist, activist, organizer, and manager. She co-founded Diverze Youth Art Platform with friends in 2013, partially in response to growing religious and ethnic tension in Myanmar. Diverze also serves as a fundraising platform, in a country where there is little international institutional funding and absolutely none from the ruling government. She speaks at conferences focused on community-building, architecture, and culture. She also creates photographic series, installations, and paintings, with subjects ranging from her father’s farming village in the southeast of Myanmar to the disappearance of a prized breed of gecko due to poaching for superstitious medicinal practices.
Zoncy is highly versatile, but she chooses consciously, that her creative energy might feed her deep desire to advocate for the marginalized. Her personal experience growing up in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic family in a country where a majority Burmese Buddhist military preys on its own citizens drives her art and her work. Her critical voice is vital as history repeats itself in Myanmar and so many are in danger of losing faith. Her work can be situated in a wider context – one of shared struggle and humanity as well as activism in artistic practice.

Text: Nathalie Johnston

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