Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds - or H2 - was 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 collaboration with the Millennium Centres and ethnic Culture and Literature Associations.

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. In 2015, 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 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 in UK.

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 and associations.

Writer in Residency

Following on the success of the Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds project, the British Council in Myanmar continued its support for literature with the first overseas writer-in-residence in partnership with Edge Hill University, in 2016. Maung Day, a poet, editor, visual and performing artist was the inaugural writer in resident and he spent two weeks in the UK joining creative writing graduates at Edge Hill University, reading at SOAS London and reading a new composed ekphrastic poem  which was inspired by the artworks of Tracy Emin and William Blake at Tate Liverpool. 

Upon his return from the UK, Maung Day led a three day Creative Writing Workshop for participants from PEN Myanmar and several different ethnic nationality groups in March 2017. 

Our interview with Maung Day on his experience in the UK as the writer in residency can be read here.

See also

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