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Ma Bai Dar

Marylise Vigneau

Ma Bai Dar is the name of a water hyacinth
that grows in the deltaic creeks and streams of Southeast Asia, floating up and down stream with the ebb and rise of the tide. In Myanmar, they have become a metaphor for women’s fortitude. The Burmese poet, Saya Zaw Gyi, has written a series of poems about Ma Bai Dar, transforming it into a resilient girl/woman, confronting a harsh world:

“With a sail aloft while I glide,
The words of the piper I have learned to abide, Wearing like a sash the noble wish of escape, bluish lady Beda
Flowing up and down in the tidal creek’s water, She says, this is my way; no other.”
– Saya Zaw Gyi, Hyacinth’s Way.

These women of Myanmar rise at dawn, working through the day, texturing the city with their poise amid the dust and grit. They traverse the landscape with a kind of quaintness, their presence like oriflammes.

And when these women exit from the stage or leave the premises, the images remain on the walls, interacting with passersby. They watch over sleeping workers in sheds; entice longshoremen in one of the little cafés near the docks, while others reveal bygone secrets and manners in a little beauty parlour frozen in time.

All images from the series Ma Bai Dar, Yangon, 2014-15 Digital
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