Sitt Nyein Aye born 24 April 1956) hails from a small village near Nyaung-U Township in Upper Myanmar. Born as Sein Aye (စိန်အေး), he is the son of Daw Than Swe and U Tun Pe, both of whom were farmers with limited financial resources. Despite their inability to fund his education, Sitt Nyein Aye was able to attend high school thanks to the monks in the local monastery who provided him with the necessary resources.
Passion for Art
From a young age, Sitt Nyein Aye displayed a keen interest in modern art. However, his passion for this form of expression was met with skepticism and criticism by his teachers, who deemed his work “mad art.” Despite his talents, he was unable to secure the top prize that would have allowed him to pursue further studies abroad. Consequently, he lived on the streets and made a living by selling his artworks to passers-by.
Political Activism and Legal Issues
Sitt Nyein Aye also used his art as a form of political expression. He spent two months in custody for sketching the ruins of a student union building that had been destroyed by Ne Win in 1962. Being a supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Burma, he later lived in exile in India.
Name Change and Philosophical Influence
In his twenties, after reading the novel “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, he changed his name to Sitt Nyein Aye, which translates to “War and Peace.” The name change reflects his deep engagement with the themes of conflict and harmony, both within society and within the individual.
Legacy and Influence
Sitt Nyein Aye has not only made a significant impact through his art but also as an educator. Htein Lin, a renowned Burmese painter and performance artist, was one of his students. His influence extends beyond his artwork, touching the realms of activism, education, and thought leadership in the Burmese art community.
Sitt Nyein Aye serves as an inspiring figure in both the art world and the broader cultural and political landscape of Burma. His life story is a testament to the power of art as a form of expression, activism, and personal development. Despite the hardships and obstacles he faced, he has left an indelible mark on Burmese art and society.