July 1, 2009
The band U2—who wrote the Grammy-winning 2001 song “Walk On” about imprisoned Nobel Prize laureate and rightfully-elected Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi—have asked attendees of their Fall 2009 360 Tour to wear masks with the face of Daw Suu Kyi during the performance of “Walk On.” The purpose: to remind the world, through the image of tens of thousands of Aung San Suu Kyi faces in the audience at U2′s internationally-attended concerts, that Aung San Suu Kyi is still alive, still in prison—and still awaiting release by the military government of Burma.
Prisons can only function if the prisoner becomes faceless, dehumanized, forgotten. By putting the face of Aung San Suu Kyi in the public eye—out from behind the walls of her house by the lake, out from behind the walls of Insein Prison, into audiences across the United States and Europe—U2 hopes to undermine the forgetfulness, the silence central to prison. And when that’s accomplished—when the Burmese government can no longer effectively contain the knowledge of Daw Suu Kyi’s situation—we can focus on the next step of getting her out from behind the walls for good.
As Alan Clements, Daw Suu Kyi’s interlocutor in The Voice of Hope, writes in an email about the concert:
. . . many of their audiences will be in excess of 100,000 people, and to imagine them wearing masks of Aung San Suu Kyi as U2 sings their hit song written for her is truly amazing. This may be for Suu what the Free Mandela concert at Wembley in 1986 was for Mandela, making him a household name. As you know two years later he was freed.
Pray this is true for Suu and her people.
To get a printable copy of the Aung San Suu Kyi mask, along with instructions for assembling it plus links to pro-Burmese democracy website from around the globe, take a look at U2′s website. For more information on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her place in Burmese history, see our page on The Voice of Hope.