Work undertaken by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery with members of the Kachin community, an ethnic minority group based in North East Burma, is under threat as a 17-year ceasefire between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) descends into warfare.Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is an important repository for objects and images relating to Kachin cultural history, including hundreds of photographic images taken in the area in the 1920s and an important textile collection. Since 1996 the Museum has been working, through grassroots organisations in Burma and the United Kingdom, to extend the collection through research, publication, commissioning and new collecting.
Some of this partnership work is to feature in a new World Stories gallery opening at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in June as part of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The gallery will include objects and images associated with the manau, a festival of huge cultural importance to the Kachin community.
The intense fighting in Kachin State and Northern Shan State erupted on 9 June 2011 and has displaced more than 15,000 people. Conditions for refugees are very poor and there are accusations of human rights abuses against Kachin civilians by Burmese soldiers. These conditions are being exacerbated by the weather – it is rainy season in the region – and a lack of international recognition and support. The situation is likely to worsen as the Burmese government prepares for a full-scale offensive against the minority Kachin army in the north of the country. Latest reports on the situation can be found on the Kachin News website .The Kachin Relief Fund – established by the UK Kachin community – is seeking to provide refugees with food, shelter and medical supplies. Donations can be made via The Kachin Relief Fund, 52 Langry Court, Lanadron Close, Isleworth, TW7 5GB. Phone: +44 771 55906 88. Email: KachinAID@gmail.com. Or directly to “The Kachin Relief Fund”, HSBC Bank plc., Sort Code:40-25-02, Account :6245 3320Helen Mears, Keeper of World Art