Thanksgiving in Amarillo Texas with Sitt Nyein Aye was as rewarding as it was tumultuous. He was up to his high jinks since his return from the ISCP New York Art festival. After painting a beautiful Buddhist mural inside the home of U Kyaing & wife Daw Khin earlier this month he decided to transform the front of their home into yet another Sitt Nyein Aye creation. As usual, he was ultra energized as he described his latest project. Not meaning to be a stick in the mud my only concerns focused on building codes, but what do I know, I’m just a crusty journalist and turkey chef.
Sitt was enthusiastic and looking forward to his Texas tour to show off art work that did not make the trip to NYC. Fortunately for me, I was privy to another Sitt Nyein Aye exclusive showing of his work. His narratives were captivatingly filled with passion and deep emotion for each and every piece of art had a very real meaning. It was more than obvious he put his heart and soul in everything brush stroke. But to have Burma’s most iconic world renowned artist give me the royal tour was over the top and an unexpected Thanksgiving treat indeed. I liken it to Leonardo Di Vinci showing me the Sistine Chapel while munching on a slice of pizza, “Hey Leo, are you going to eat that cannoli?”. Needless to say, I was elated when Sitt drew a caricature of me and that was just way cool. I learned one thing about my friend Sitt; expect the unexpected and you will still be amazed.
As we prepared for the holiday meal and festivities I found it difficult to keep up with that enigmatic ancient artisan because he was everywhere at once, painting here and painting there. And all the while he was chatting about his desire to have his own studio, conduct art classes for sincere artists and do some writing. Truly, artistic juices flow in his veins but as we enjoyed the day I could not help but feel his inner sorrow. It was a familiar one that I have encountered time and time again as I journey throughout the Burmese enclaves I am privy to. Since I was also in the company of Burma’s heroes from the ABSDF, 88 Generations, NLD and other valiant organizations who fought for democracy and human rights, it was clear they shared this deep inner sorrow as well. The love for their homeland, Burma, and the fact they can never return has become an unquenchable fire that burns deep within their souls and Sitt is no exception.
On a much lighter note I was pleasantly surprised, culinary speaking, since I was introduced to a Burmese approach to eating this giant bird. It was my responsibility to cook the bird but I was also cautioned not to stuff it with conventional stuffing because many folks did not care for the taste. One person went as far as to say that conventional stuffing made his family and friends sick to the stomachs. I did not explore this stuffing issue to see if everyone shared this opinion but for the people I encountered on my 6 day stay there was no question that traditional stuffing was not palatable and not on the menu. I never cared for the taste either and if the truth were told, I prefer wild turkey to domestic bird also.
In any event I roasted not one but two birds with simple seasoning, garlic salt and pepper. We also had coconut noodle soup, lahpet, catfish, rice and a sundry assortment of other dishes and veggies but what totally rocked with the turkey was the variety of dipping sauces. I managed to dine at several places and discovered a new and delicious way to eat turkey and I learned of many tasty dipping sauce ideas. From hot and spicy to sweet and savory, sauces were the hot ticket combined with traditional Burmese cuisine and a quality red wine, of course. I must admit there were three sauces I really favored; one was a preparation of mint leaves, fish sauce and a thick soy sauce, another was mixture of ngapi and a variety of spices I was not familiar with, and finally there was a red chilly and cilantro sauce, it was all good.
As we all milled around and enjoyed the day I noticed Sitt outside with the Burmese children and he was conducting an art class. It was very heart rendering to observe him as he described colors, designs and of course, the art of expressionism. The kids were listening intently and were all smiles as he shared with them his techniques and other nuances that bedazzled the art world. My only hope is that his dreams come true and he does finally acquire that art studio where he can exhibit his art and share his craft to those who can appreciate him for the master artesian and philanthropist he truly is. When it was all said and done Sitt did pose a puzzling question about his trip to NYC. He found it perplexing that there were many artists at the show but only a few had art to display. He, as an artist, could not fathom the notion of not painting or expression himself through art for it was his passion.
Sitt did want me to give a loose itinerary of his December schedule in Texas but when I questioned him about the exact locations of the shows he scoffed, “They will find me”. So for what it’s worth this is Sitt’s December agenda; 1st Austin, 2nd Houston, 3rd San Antonio, 4th Fort Worth, 5th Amarillo and culminating in India on December 10th or 12th @ *Kochi – Muziris Biennale 2012, but things may change since there is a controversy over the misappropriation of funds by organizers that must be resolved and many artists from the Kerala area are up in arms. But true to form, leave it to Sitt to walk into some controversy and excitement wherever he goes.
*Kochi-Muziris Biennale: The Biggest Story of Corruption in the Indian Art Scene
Kochi-Muziris Runs into Trouble
It’s never a dull moment with Sitt Nyein Aye, not even in India.
Your Devil’s Advocate
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