Archive Dive: B is for Burma

The 26/D&AD Archive Dive is a series of articles by 26 members celebrating the best work from the D&AD awards archives.

B is for Burma, by John Simmons

But. It’s a word you say to oppose someone else’s point of view. There should be a D&AD writers’ award for it, a Yellow Button perhaps. But there isn’t. So I’m choosing Burma instead, led on by that thought.

The fact is, the right to oppose someone else’s point of view is fundamental to our way of living. That makes it very easy to take for granted. When you look through the D&AD archive, including all those inspiring projects beginning with a B – from bath bubbles to bank branches – we should give thanks that we can do this. Underpinning it is the basic freedom to express a point of view, to be ourselves, to use our imagination.

Other people in other countries are not so lucky. That’s why, among all the commercial work in the archive, my attention was drawn to a short film about Burma. It was made by JWT New York for Human Rights Watch.

It takes less than two minutes to watch the film. The centrepiece shows an exhibition in New York’s Grand Central Station. The exhibition is made up ofphotographs of people imprisoned in Burma’s squalid jails for holding views opposed to the military regime. In front of each photograph is a line of vertical pens positioned to look like the bars of a cage.

Please touch the exhibition says the caption.

You see New Yorkers touching the exhibition by taking down pens from the photographs, then signing their names to a petition. With a soundtrack of Buddhist monks chanting, the pens are removed, and so are the bars. A final caption tells us that, following the petition, 150 prisoners have been released, including Ang San Suu Kyi.

This brings to mind the 26:50 project when 50 writers from 26 each wrote 50 words about an imprisoned writer. It was to mark the 50 years of PEN International’s ‘Writers in prison’ work.

Pressure works, though sometimes it takes time. Writing is powerful. It’s good for others, good for you. No ifs or buts.

This article originally appeared on the D&AD website.

To see the work, click here.

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