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Photographer Maudy discusses book “Yangon:A City to Rescue”

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Min Thu Kha Aung – More then 40 photographs of Rangoon’s iconic, colonial-era buildings in danger of falling victim to Burma’s rapid development are to be featured in the artistic coffee table book “Yangon: A City to Rescue.”

The large hardcover will include portraits of Rangoon residents and images taken at historic locations like the Shwedagon Pagoda and inside the famous Secretariat building that has been closed to the public since independence hero Aung San was assassinated there in 1947.

The concept for the publication materialized when two photographers, Moroccan-born Australian Jacques Maudy and Italian Jimi Cassaccia, were approached by the Rangoon Heritage Trust co-founder U Sonny Thein to document the city’s once grand but now crumbling architecture. The creators plan to use the book to advocate for the preservation of the former capital’s unique heritage and to bring attention to positive changes in one of the world’s poorest countries.

In an interview with IMNA, Maudy shared a section of the book’s introduction in which Robert Taylor wrote, “Each of the buildings in central Yangon evokes a story. Each of the stories needs to be preserved. But the buildings need to be preserved too, because without them the stories will end and Yangon will become another shopping mall.”

Since the central government moved its ministries and administrative departments to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005, many of the finest buildings in Rangoon have been abandoned. Some, including the High Court, Pegu Club, and the Secretariat, have been contracted out or sold to private developers.

“Those buildings will be replaced by ugly buildings, and once you have lost something like the Secretariat or the Pegu Club, you cannot replace them,” said Maudy.

The book is to be edited and published by Cassaccia and Maudy and printed in Hong Kong. However, the project currently falls short of its US $7,500 budget. A letter of appeal requesting the remaining funds was posted on the photographers’ JJMC Facebook forum and distributed to followers on Sunday.

“Now, we only need $3,200 more. We accept any donation. From $30 to $3,000,” said Maudy. The book is expected to launch in Rangoon in March 2013.

Maudy described his motivation for the project, stating, “I was born in Tangier, a town at the northern tip of Africa, a town with a very rich history and very diverse architecture. But, when I return to visit, I cannot recognize the town of my childhood. Every historical building has been replaced by ugly cement and concrete buildings by the developers. The charm and the history have disappeared and the town lost its soul. And now, colonial-era buildings in Rangoon, they are part of the history of Burma and part of the memories of the generations of Burmese. I am not English, my father is Spanish and my mother is French. I cannot be suspected of trying to preserve my [English] culture. I am trying to preserve the beauty of Rangoon.”

More information on “Yangon: A City to Rescue” and instructions on making a donation are available at HYPERLINK : JJMC

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