The world biggest wood carving show say the organizers

The world biggest wood carving show say the organizers

In 2008, cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc on Myanmar, killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying much of the southern half of the country.

In the aftermath of the cyclone, large trees had been unearthed and laid to the ground. To make use of the wood, which included large hardwood trees lain across major roads and on top of buildings, sculptors were given the dead trunks and branches to work on.

U Khin Maung Aye, President of the Kaung Myanmar Aung Foundation (KMA), collected many of the fallen trunks and decided to host a wood carving competition. In May 2008, he invited woodcarvers from across the country to put their talents to work, with the aim of exhibiting their final sculptures at the Sayar San Plaza in Yangon.

Over ten years on, and the competition has gone from strength to strength. This year’s event was the 8th successful competition, and was held at the Shwe Pyi Resort in Bago, from November 29 to December 4.

“There is no country as rich as our country in wood carving,” said U Kyi Win, the organizer of the event. “We are now opening a new chapter in Myanmar’s wood carving history”.

U Khin Maung Aye claims that the event is “the world’s biggest”, after researching similar events overseas.

A wood sculptor works on a bas-relief for his sculpture. Photo: Shin Moe Myint                     A wood sculptor works on a bas-relief for his sculpture.

“Such large-scale wood sculptures are very rare in the world today. Some of the sculptures in this years’ event are well over 6 feet tall, some of the biggest in the world,” U Kyi Win added.

For the occasion, over 7,000 wood carvings, huge tree trunks and roots were on display at the resort’s 500-acre showroom. 70 percent of the wood sculptures were made from trees felled by Nargis. Several awards were presented to deserving artists, according to the sculptures’ size and style.

Artists from 20 different townships across Myanmar attended the event, putting on display some 227 wood sculptures. The most realistic sculpture was awarded 100 lakhs ($6,675). The competition’s runner-up received 75 ($5000), and the third 50 lakhs ($3338), gold medals for extra.

The award ceremony was held on December 4 at 6 pm. 21 awards went to deserving artisans; 8 for modern wood sculpting and 13 for realistic ones.

This year, the winner of the first prize is Ko Pyay Sone Aung, with an art piece titled “Traditional Heritage”. His sculpture represents an incredibly detailed scene of daily life in traditional Myanmar: an old man sculpts marionettes while two other characters assist him. The sculpture is backdroped by wooden puppets hanging from a wooden divider. The expression on the characters’ face and the attention to the details on the sculpted wall won Ko Pyay Sone Aung a place on the podium and in the spectators’ heart.

The artist has already won many prizes in previous wood carving contests and reaffirmed his talents at this year’s competition.

Ko Pyay Sone Aung's artwork which won first place at the competition. Photo: Supplied.               Ko Pyay Sone Aung’s artwork which won first place at the competition.

“My heart almost leaped out of my body. I’m absolutely thrilled to receive this award,” he said.

“This is the only contest for wood sculptors and the only one which allows for future job opportunities,” said Shwe Dar Kyaw Swar, four time winner. This year, his carving of three women spinning a yarn won him second prize. In the past, wood carving was widely popular and the government would organise contests to showcase the know-how of the local sculptors. Today, only the KMA competition remains.

“The situation is bad, especially for beginners. The wood sculpture market is going downhill and even professionals struggle to find jobs,” added Shwe Dar Kyaw Swar.

In Yangon, wood sculptures are mostly sold in Bogyoke Market. However, due to their price, it is only accessible to wealthy tourists and locals, otherwise they are exported to China.

Shwe Dar Kyaw Swar's sculpure of three women making threads from a spinning wheel won him second prize. Photo: Supplied.Shwe Dar Kyaw Swar’s sculpure of three women making threads from a spinning wheel won him second prize. Photo: Supplied.

During the exhibition, many visitors had the opportunity to wander among the sculptures and discover the great wood carving tradition of Myanmar.

From: Myanmar Times