About a year ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Myanmar. I had long followed the politics of this fascinating country and had a long-standing fascination, admiration and respect for Aung San Suu Kyi. I liked to read about her life, her endless dedication to social change through non-violence, her commitment to her country and people, her saint-like patience, and incredible ability to maintain calm and grace in the face of violence and tribulations.
Back when I had just left university (high on inspiration from my human rights colleagues) and still had the gift of ignorance on my side, I thought that I had the capacity to change the world for the better. I started working at an NGO that supported newly arrived refugees, many of whom were from Myanmar. I remember my colleagues and I often playfully fighting over the Myanmar ‘cases’ (we all wanted them) as they were the most gentle and humble individuals to work with. Yet, despite my interactions with many Myanmar people (from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds), and all my readings of Aung San Suu Kyi, I had no idea what to expect from my first visit to the country.
Almost five years after I graduated, almost two decades after being forced into house arrest, on the eve of 13 November 2010, Suu Kyi was released into the open arms her beloved people.
Less than four years later, I arrive in Myanmar, buzzing with excitement to see what Suu Kyi’s homeland looked like, how it had changed since her release, and what her people thought about their future, following her release.
I met many people who were optimistic about the prospect of their tomorrow (collective and individual), and believed that Suu Kyi would deliver them to a more fertile destination. One man in particular, spoke to me of how he and his wife (along with their 3 small children) left their secure lives in America to return home to Myanmar following Suu Kyi’s release. They believed that not only would Suu Kyi deliver on her vision for a democratic Myanmar, but that they had a patriotic obligation to play a role in this transformation.
The following photographs capture the Myanmar that I experienced: the people, their faith, adaptability, hope for the future, resilience, and grace.
Q&A with Noushin Arefadib
A form of self and emotional expression. It is a way of sharing a story- yours or someone else’s. It’s a source of unending happiness. It’s a powerful tool for social change.
Photography and writing…
Go hand in hand for some, but not for everyone. If you don’t have the language skills to share your thoughts, emotions, or stories with someone (either because you speak a different language or you are just not very good at expressing yourself through words) photography becomes your instrument for communication. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and they are right.
Who left the biggest impression on you?
I always remember my father having a love for photography and art in general. In the past whenever we had the chance to spend time together, we would often go to art galleries and museums. I remember him always having a few art/photography books on his bookshelf. I always liked to go through them and I remember a feeling of elation as I flipped through the pages.
Later on I discovered a love for Frida Kahlo, Anais Nin, Simone de Beauvoir and other amazing radical women artists who inspired me through their different forms of art and self-expression.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am an Iranian Australian with a love for traveling to as many new cities as I can. I have an enduring curiosity and interest in human rights, photography, poetry, and anthropology. I try to marry these areas in my work (as a social policy advisor) and in my life through my travels and deep exploration of all the beautiful cultures around me. I hope to one day have enough courage to peruse writing and photography full time.