Public Lectures 2015
Grand Prize 2015: Thant Myint-U
- Where is Myanmar advancing toward in the 21st century?: Dialogue on the country's past, present, and future
- Saturday, September 19, 2015 (13:00-15:00)
- Main Hall, ELGARA HALL
- AKASHI Yasushi(Chairman, International House of Japan)
- TAKENAKA Chiharu(Professor, Rikkyo University)
Public lecture was held at ELGARA HALL by inviting Dr. Thant Myint-U, a laureate of the Grand Prize.
Part1: Keynote Speech by Thant Myint-U
“Cooperation by Japan and the Rest of International Society is Essential in Advancing Democracy in Myanmar”
Myanmar is in a period of dramatic change, and there is enormous hope for these four years. The change in government has made possible a new constitution, and the political environment enjoys new freedoms. Economic reform is also advancing, and things are progressing peacefully. Following a prolonged“ black hole” of isolation, the rapid changes in recent years are a miracle.
November 28, 1885 was an important day in the history of Myanmar. It was the day that the thousand-year old dynasty was toppled by the British, and until about 1940, Burma was governed as a part of India. Myanmar is a fertile land, and over the years hundreds of thousands, millions, of immigrants from China, India and elsewhere came. Most of the Burmese were reduced to the lowest rungs of society, and they held considerable enmity against the immigrants and foreign corporations above them.
After independence, the military gained strength, and military rule took effect in 1962 to suppress domestic reaction to external influences. The nation grew poor under dictatorship and international isolation. From about 1988, however, movements began to gain strength to end military rule.
We transitioned to a civilian government in 2011, and are now working to return to the community of nations. Myanmar is today open to the world, and undergoing dramatic change. With many minorities, one of our pressing issues is how to nurture a sense of national identity.
Democracy, peace, and economic development are all interconnected. To make possible a peaceful, stable advancement toward democracy, we must continue to advance peace talks with 20 different armed groups, while investing into infrastructure such as electricity and rail, as well as health and education. Our proximity to both India and China raises the potential for rapid development.
International cooperation is as important as international competition. There is a long history of interaction between Myanmar and Japan, and the government is also interested in personnel exchange. I am confident that relations between our nations will grow stronger in the future. I hope that you will all visit my country as tourists, and meet t he non-government organizations, universities, and common people of Myanmar.
Keynote Speech by AKASHI Yasushi
As the first Japanese employee of the United Nations, I worked under the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. U Thant, who was the grandfather of laureate Dr. Thant Myint-U. In the 1990s, when I was in charge of crucial peacekeeping activities, one promising staff working under me was Dr. Thant Myint-U. He brilliantly described the complex history of his nation in his lecture just now, expressing confidence that if international society would provide aid and assistance, democracy would assuredly succeed in Myanmar. I hope that Japan will support their efforts, and take appropriate action to fulfill its own role and responsibility toward that end.
“Participation in International Society : Issues and Potentials”
The dialogue between Dr. Thant Myint-U and his former superior at the United Nations, Dr. AKASHI Yasushi, was moderated by Professor TAKENAKA Chiharu.
Dr. Thant Myint-U explained some of the changes in Yangon, pointing out an explosion in smartphone users from 500,000 to 1.2 million people recently.“ As the people of Myanmar, especially the young generations, become global consumers, it is crucial to consider what elements of Myanmar we need to preserve,” he commented. The discussion touched on the effects of Buddhism, and Dr. AKASHI opined that“ Buddhism is one way of deepening mutual understanding and friendship between Japan, and Myanmar and the other nations of Southeast Asia.” Dr. Thant Myint-U continued that his nation needed“ improvements in government employees, in the land ownership and use system, and in national energy strategy," and expressed his hopes for elections, the first after transfer to civil rule .
In response to a query from the audience as to what Japan can do to help Myanmar, Dr. AKASHI replied that“ The entry of Japanese corporations into Myanmar will be to the benefit of both parties. Japan can also make contributions in education and social welfare. It is important to provide aid with sincerity, to support long-term development.”
Academic Prize 2015: Ramachandra GUHA
- Gandhi, India and the World
- Saturday, September 19, 2015 (16:30-18:30)
- Main Hall, ELGARA HALL
- TANABE Akio(Professor, Kyoto University)
- WAKIMURA Kohei(Professor, Osaka City University)
Public lecture was held at ELGARA HALL by inviting Dr. Ramachandra GUHA, a laureate of the academic Prize.
Part1: Keynote Speech by Ramachandra GUHA
“Independence Movements, Social Reform, Religious Reconciliation, and Prophecy : Four Jobs Driving Change”
I began my career as an environmental historian, and in my research into environmental initiatives I became very interested in Gandhi. During the Chipko Movement in the Himalayas in the 1970s and 80s ,villagers fought logging by hugging trees in a non-violent protest strongly influenced by Gandhi’s teachings.
Gandhi was unique because he combined four tasks: the independence movement, social reform, belief in religious diversity, and belief in prophecy and the future. He led initiatives in all four fields.
The large-scale civic movement to gain independence from Britain was not a violent conflict, unlike other colonies, but primarily non-violent. The salt march of 1930 is especially famous.
As a social reformer he called for the elimination of dis - crimination against the “untouchable” caste, and women; insisted that people of all castes should be allowed to use the same temples; and allowed women to join his effort to gain independence without violence.
Gandhi was born a Hindi, but he had man y Christian friends, and worked for a world where people of all religions̶Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc.̶could respect each other’s religion and live in peace together. He created ashrams, singing the songs of various religions, reading their books, and dedicated his life toward that goal.
He also prophesied the future. In a speech g iven in 1920 he warned that India would deplete its energ y and resources if it industrialized in the manner of the W est, and in the 1930s strongly supported organic agriculture.
His thoughts were criticized at the time , and he was attacked for them. Today many wise men respect Gandhi, but there are also man y who despise and belittle him. I don ’t think there has been anyone who stirred up as much debate as Gandhi, or will be again.
I believe that he was a superlative Indian thinker and moral prophet, perhaps the wisest philosopher since Buddha. T here are many people even in India today who despise him, but I am confident that the people of the world will come to recognize his achievements.
“Gandhi’s Thoughts and Movement Are of Great Significance to Modern Japan”
Professor TANABE commented on the keynote speech, thanking Dr. GUHA for his clear and succinct explanation of the global historical importance of Gandhi’s philosophy, and its broad appeal. He continued, “Gandhi challenged the framework of oppression in all of his activity and sought alternatives. It si crucial for Japan today to accept diversity, to sympathize with and understand its positions, and fully realize its hidden potential.
Questions from the audience were accepted in the second half, and Professor WAKIMURA asked who strongly affected Gandhi during his experience in South Africa. Dr. GUHA replied that Gandhi learned much from daily life there, such as through becoming friends with Jewish and Christian women. Dr. GUHA also touched on the relationship between modern India and Gandhi, explaining that“ It is important to realize that Gandhi was not right about everything. His convictions concerning non-violence, religious diversity, and environmental preservation remain invaluable, but we must do better than he did in areas like gender equality.
Arts and Culture Prize 2015: Minh Hanh
- Creativity in Asia discovered through fashion: Attractive features of Vietnamese fashion and culture formed and expressed by Minh Hanh
- Sunday, September 20, 2015 (14:00-16:30)
- Event Hall B2F, ACROS Fukuoka
- KAWACHI Hiroko(Professor Emeritus, Koran Women's Junior College)
- NITTA Eiji(Professor Emeritus,Kagoshima University)
- FUJIHARA Keiyo(Professor, Kyushu University)
Public lecture was held at Event Hall B2F, ACROS Fukuoka by inviting Ms. Minh Hanh, a laureate of the Arts and Culture Prize.
Part1: Keynote Speech and Design Introduction by Minh Hanh
“New Fashion Dimensions From Fabrics of Ethnic Minorities and Japanese Tradition”
The population of Vietnam is about 80 million people, and about 14% of that total consists of 53 ethnic minorities.
The people of these ethnic minorities are simple and straightforward. Their feelings change with what they see and feel in their daily lives, and as a result the colors, materials, and patterns of their fabrics change, too. What they make during the day will be different from what they make at night. As a designer, this is a wonderful characteristic and one to be treasured, but it is very difficult for us to change our designs to match our moods as they do. When I work with the Hmong, eat with them, sleep in their homes, I can empathize with them. As a designer, I gain powerful inspiration from that empathy.
My apprentices often ask me what we can do to preserve and protect their traditional work. I reply that this is a never-ending battle. It is difficult for young designers to appreciate the value of tradition, because it is very difficult to successfully incorporate traditional elements into modern fashion. If they can come to appreciate traditional values, however, they treasure them forever. We are determined to continue fighting this battle.
I was born in the old city of Pleiku. The region is home to many ethnic minorities, and I often spent time with them. I loved them. After I graduated an arts university I began to pursue a career in fashion, and nobody would accept the use of traditional ethnic elements in fashion designs. They asked me why I would use materials nobody wanted to wear, and make designs that weren’t civilized. I never gave up, though, and when I worked with traditional elements always felt the inspiration flow. It brought back what I had felt as a child. Later, that style of weaving was recognized as authentic Vietnamese culture, and began to be used in tourist souvenirs, giving the minorities a source of income, and pride in their heritage.
My goal is to create culture that intersects and mingles multiple eras and reg ions. The modern era needs authentic value born from tradition, and I work to pass that conviction on to the next generation.
“How to Preserve Tradition for Future Generations?”
Professor KAWACHI, who has worked tirelessly to preserve and develop traditional Japanese fabrics such as Kurume kasuri pongee and Hakata-ori weaving, was delighted by the stunning combination of pongee and tulle fabrics in Minh Hanh’s dress. Professor NITTA commented that the hand looms used by ethnic minorities have been excavated from 2500-year old graves. All felt the impact of Minh Hanh’s work, combining tradition and modernity in complex ways.
A member of the audience asked what they can do to help preserve tradition for the future, and Ms. Minh Hanh replied“ Youth can also feel the attraction of tradition, but it is important to show them the direction to grow in. Losing one’s past is to lose your future.”
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