Thousands of locals are crowded in the streets of Myanmar protesting against the military coup that started this February. For years the people of Myanmar have been subjected to a military regime that not only has caused conflict but more importantly, the Rohingya people have become victims of a deadly genocide. Migrate Art and its series Raising for Myanmar is working to help.
Recently, Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s leader, was arrested for carrying walkie-talkies. And, after the protest escalated, the military launched airstrikes in retaliation, killing 6 people and injuring 11.
“An eminent bloodbath” is how The United Nations has described the events taking place in Maynmar.
Unfortunately, little awareness about this ongoing conflict has been raised by the media. However, a group of artists has come together through Migrate Art to raise awareness and funds to help the cause.
Raising for Myanmar
Raising for Myanmar, a timed-edition poster series acting as an emergency fundraiser appeal for the deteriorating situation in Myanmar.
Migrate Art is producing a series of 21 ‘protest posters’ to raise funds for the victims of the violent military coup that struck the country in February 2021.
21 of the most renowned artists, including Tacita Dean, Richard Mosse, Pietro Ruffo, Guerrilla Girls, and Sean Scully, have donated their works to Migrate Art’s initiative.
“The idea to focus on this medium, in particular, relates to the key role posters have played in the Burmese resistance. Raising for Myanmar comes from the genuine urge to support people whose who are facing situations of extreme violence. It has been incredibly uplifting to see such a positive and quick response from all the artists involved”
Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
The project, Raising for Myanmar — as his previous ones — stands as a testament to the power of collectivity and creativity. It demonstrates the art industry’s power to unite, create and alleviate.
Kulture Hub had the opportunity to interview Simon Butler, founder, and curator of Migrates Art.
“Hearing about the increase in violence and seeing first-hand photos from my friend (who lives and works in Yangon) compelled me to curate a project to help. I also visited Myanmar in 2019 and experienced the beauty of the country and its people I knew I had to do something.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Each poster will be sold for £50 in support of Mutual Aid Myanmar, listed in the collective platform Support, Myanmar Fund. Profits will be put towards the relief of medical staff, striking government workers, and civilians who continue to protest on the streets despite life-threatening conditions.
Founded in 2016 by Simon Butler, Migrate Art is a social enterprise dedicated to raise money for the refugee crisis through contemporary art. The company successfully empowers displaced people by collaborating with the world’s leading creative thinkers and grassroots charities.
This way, they have raised over £600,000, funded projects across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. Not to mention that they have worked with many of the world’s best artists including Anish Kapoor, Mona Hatoum, Sean Scully, Shepard Fairey, Antony Gormley, and Loie Hollowell.
“At the very core of Migrate Art’s ethos is the theme of empowerment. I would say this is the greatest inspiration behind creating it. Through working with our charity partners, we are able to empower displaced and homeless people to rebuild their lives. This comes in the form of food, shelter, education, and job opportunities, as we feel everyone in the world should have the opportunity to live the life they want to.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
But, they also manage to empower the artist they work with and the people that engage with their projects. “There are a lot of people out there that want to help society in some way but don’t know-how. Migrate Art provides a platform for people to experience art, but also help the wider world” he told us.
Other projects to know
Thus, the first of his projects was Multicolour. A project focused on creating unique art pieces using pencil Butler found “in the wreckage of the Calais Jungle Refugee Camp” after it was demolished in 2016. The artist that collaborated with the works included Richard Deacon, Anish Kapoor, and Rachel Whiteread.
This happened after he learned about his brother’s experience at the Calais Jungle. Hearing the stories his brother told Butler was inspired to visit the place himself. He quickly realized that reading about the world events in the newspaper was not enough.
“I had been reading a lot of derogatory articles in the media about ‘swarms’ of migrants. But, the real-life experience was the opposite – they were kind, caring human beings just trying to survive in any way they could. This changed something in me, and I have been finding ways to use art to help ever since.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Not only was the lack of information concerning, has the lack of information he found most problematic. That is how this organization started.
After going to auction at Phillips London in April 2019, Multicolour raised £121,000 in support of those affected by the global refugee crisis.
“I would say my work is currently focused on the intersection between humanitarianism and art. This can probably be traced back to 2016 when I visited the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France. This experience is what inspired me to create Migrate Art.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Simon is a trained designer, but an artist at heart. He studied graphic design but, after assisting the artist D*Face, he quickly realized he was more interested in Contemporary Art. Thus, he refocused his energy and built a career of working in galleries for 8 years.
Finally, in 2016, Butler created Migrate Art, “and haven’t looked back.”
“I had been working in the contemporary art world for several years and saw a stark contrast between thousands of people living in refugee camps and the huge amount of wealth in the art industry. Visiting Calais and other parts of the world impacted by migration opened my eyes to the world outside my own ‘bubble’. To meet people that had nothing and be greeted in such a kind, open and friendly manner, I knew I had to find a way to help.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Close to his heart and perhaps his favorite of all projects is the Scorched Earth. It started while he was visiting refugee camps in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. While there, ISIS was burning crop fields to show they still had a presence in the region.
“I had the idea to smuggle some of the ash back to London in my luggage and make paint After disguising it as a tea to get it through customs, we successfully made paint, and 15 of the world’s best artists made work with this paint. The project was a big success and raised over £350,000, and I’m really proud of this one in particular.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Migrate Art being the catalyst for change
When looking through history, Simon Butler finds art to be “the catalyst of change.” After all, art has proofed to be an extremely powerful tool. Not does it inspires to make a difference but connects thousands of people around the world through a single experience.
Thus, for him, art is a tool to talk about wider issues. But most importantly, to share ideas with people that might not know about the causes we support. “
“We understand that art is an emotive experience, and it often connects with people on a deeper level than reading an article in the news.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Slowly, Migrate Art is becoming a global organization. It is taking a unique approach to projects all over the world and bringing a series of distinguished artists together in the name of change.
“Global migration is only growing, and will continue to grow due to climate change and conflict, so we need to be able to continue growing to meet this increase in people that need help.”Simon Butler, Founder of Migrate Art
Following a digital launch on Migrate Art’s website, Raising for Myanmar’s posters will be exhibited in Mayfair from May 24th, and will be available to purchase through QR codes assigned to each piece. Posters will be on sale from May 10th to June 27th.