Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds - or H2 - is a unique, four year, nation-wide programme that uses literature as a platform to support freedom of expression, creativity and social change in Burma’s ethnic nationality states.
H2 began in the early days of the transition with the first landscape mapping of the post-censorship literary community in Myanmar. What followed was an unprecedented series of interlacing components that sought to reach out to literary talents, through short story and translation workshops, live literature nights and ethnic literature conferences.
In 2013 and 2014, local community members in all the seven ethnic states participated in workshops co-led by Burmese and local writers where they learnt how to write short stories in their languages. A celebration of literature, music and dance followed the workshops in collaboration with the Millennium Centres and ethnic culture and literature associations.
In 2015, 21 of these workshop generated stories were selected by leading literary and cultural elders in the ethnic states and translated into Burmese. After a year of editing and proofreading an anthology of these new voices from the ethnic states was published in Yangon featuring 28 original short stories, 21 in Burmese translation, in 11 different languages and 10 distinct scripts.
2000 copies of the anthology were distributed across the nation to libraries, community centres, ethnic culture and literature association, IDP and refugee camps.
In 2016, with the conclusion of the first literary translation workshop in Myanmar, sponsored by the British Council, translators returned to the ethnic states to work with the original writers producing 14 stories translated into English from Burmese, Mon, Sgaw Karen, Kayah Li, Shan Gyi, Jinghpaw, Lai Hakha and Rakhine languages.
In November 2017, the first anthology of ethnic language short stories from Myanmar was published in the UK, titled Hidden Words, Hidden Words: Contemporary Short Stories from Myanmar, co-edited by Lucas Stewart and Alfred Birnbaum.
Writer and former political prisoner, Letyar Tun led the multi-city launch tour at Asia House in London, Aston University in Birmingham and Book Hive in Norwich to a packed audience. The anthology will be made available in print and e-book format.
Over the course of four years, the H2 programme has engaged with writers, poets, publishers, booksellers, editors, translators and associations from Yangon to Myitkyina, with the support and collaboration of numerous national and international literary groups including, PEN Myanmar, the Myanmar Publishers and Booksellers Association, Pen International, Asia Literary Review, Bagri Foundation, Writers Centre Norwich and Writing West Midlands.
Article on Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds anthology can be read here.
Interview with BC literature advisor and anthology co-editor can be read here.