In Yangon Echoes: Inside Heritage Homes, residents open their doors and share how they have experienced change on the domestic front. The book, replete with colourful photographs, records everyday life via domestic connections to old places. It traces the popular history of buildings, charting the social space and urban folklore, and linking the past to the present via living memories.
Our storytellers speak of joy and tragedy, simple pleasures and aching issues. They share thoughts and feelings of living through Yangon’s emergence from decades of stagnation to engagement with a rapidly spinning world.Told with courage and charm, these informal stories of home offer insight into what has happened and is happening to the city. Dates, numbers and names are by the by. This is a sharing of heart. “We Burmese are survivors”, one storyteller concludes.
Culture and heritage are inseparable. At heart, they are always about ways of life. This book celebrates the contribution of the many different people who have made their homes in Yangon. The cultural fabric and shaping of Yangon is explored through stories told by inhabitants who know some of the city’s heritage places as home. This is a journey of networked yarns, an illuminated thread of Yangon’s heritage tapestry.
Traditional history concentrates on famous people and their powerful deeds. Dates of wars and revolutions, independence and democracy movements, signiﬁcant events in economic and political spheres are recorded. But what do these events mean to folk going about their daily lives, feeding families, getting children to school and earning a living? Oral history values personal interpretation, the subjective over the objective. Folkloric, it speaks of events as remembered and told to us by our elders. It is often couched in the intangible, difficult to grasp and quantify, yet full of meaning.
Heritage is frequently described and measured in terms of signiﬁcance, things that give meaning to our lives, carried from the past into the future. Signiﬁcance has historical, cultural, architectural, artistic, spiritual and social dimensions. Institutions and governments often charge themselves with the task of deciding what relics are important enough to be preserved. Such selections are contrived to project a national narrative, the story of the day. In authorised versions, the voices, stories and ideas of common folk are frequently unheard. In contrast, these portraits of heritage homes offer a tool for interpreting contemporary history. Where heritage meets human rights, the question is: who values what? Who gets to say what is important and has meaning, in the home, building, city and country? These are questions of power, of individual values and choices.
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The rich tapestry of multicultural Yangon is reflected wonderfully in this brilliant book, a fusion of intangible and tangible heritage that is often overlooked in architectural studies of cities. – William Logan, Prof Emeritus, Deakin University, Melbourne