Thursday, January 20, 2011

Self-Immolation and Street Art

During one of my lectures on Vietnam last semester we learned about Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire on June 11, 1963 to protest the discriminatory treatment against Buddhists under the administration of President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Roman Catholic. The dramatic event was captured by international media and finally forced the world to look at the policies and practices of the Diem regime.

Award winning photograph by journalist Malcolm Browne

'Self immolation is a suicide committed for political or moral reasons as a form of protest, often by fire.'

Self immolation dates back to the late fourth century, 'But no matter how old, self-immolation still leaves people horrified, riveted and moved' (CNN). Since the event that took place in Vietnam, acts of self-immolation have occured in the US, Iran, Czechoslovakia, Chile, China, North Africa, each representing a different but equally important cause. As horrific as the act by itself is, what it stands for, what it represents, and the determination for change exhibited, forces us to look in a mirror and ask ourselves what we are fighting for in our own lives.

In 2008 anti-Olympic graffiti appeared on the streets of Bangkok depicting self-immolation. Street art by nature is a political statement since it defies property rights and spits in the face of the system that tells us what we can and can't do. But I have a huge admiration for street art that has political meaning or controversy, pieces that make us think and reflect on our society.


Note the Bob Marley quote...quite fitting actually.


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