CHAW EI THEIN (b. 1969, Yangon, Myanmar) is a visual and performance artist.


Currently based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Thein is a longtime proponent of political change in her home country of Myanmar and has remained a central figure in its contemporary art community despite her spatial separation. Since the February 1st coup that threw Myanmar into turmoil, she has worked tirelessly to support her fellow artists and the Civil Disobedience Movement in hopes of restoring power to the country’s democratically elected leaders through peaceful protest. Her artworks interpret her struggle against the oppression of expression and the impact of social transformation. From an early age, she received artistic recognition, securing numerous international art awards, museum and gallery shows, and res- idencies. With her father, artist Maung Maung Thein, as her art teacher and mentor, Thein developed a diverse art practice comprising painting, installation, and performance.


In 2004, Thein presented her first solo show at the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) in Japan. From 2004 on, she continued developing and performing work, showing at TIPALive (2005) in Taiwan, Asiatopia in Thailand (2005/2007/2008), 8 Open International Performance Art Festival in Beijing (2007), Small East Asia Co performance art event hosted in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Toyama, Japan (2008), and the 7*11d Performance Art Festival in Toronto, Canada.


Thein exhibited her second solo painting show at the Espace art gallery in Bangkok (2005) and then at the Hermes’ Ear Art Exhibition at the Nitrianska Gallery in Slovakia and Budapest (2006). She held her third solo exhibition at the Balance Art Gallery in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She was an invited speaker at the Asia House Art Gallery in London, where she presented “The Myanmar Performance Art Scene: challenges faced by Myanmar Artists” during the September demonstrations of 2007. She was awarded The Elizabeth J. McCormack and Jerome I. Aron Fellowship in connection with the Asian Cultural Council (ACC) in residence with the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York.


She has also exhibited her works at Point B Gallery, Brooklyn, ISCP Open Studios, and the United Nations Plaza. Her awards and residencies include Art Omi, the Sea Change Residency, and GAEA Foundation. She is a fellow of the Art Initiative Tokyo (AIT) in Tokyo, Japan. In 2008, Thein and artist Richard Streitmatter-Tran debuted the collaborative architectural, mixed-media installation September Sweetness at the Singapore Biennale.


She has given artist presentations at several universities and institutions, including the School of the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC), Massachusetts College of Art, Brown University, Princeton University, New School, Northern Illinois University at DeKalb (NIU), University of Minnesota, and the Open Society Institute (OSI) in New York. Numerous international art presses, including ArtforumArt Asia PacificYishuC-ArtsStrait TimesThe Washington Post, and The New York Timeshave profiled Thein’s artistic practice for its candid portrayals of the conflicts and contradictions of the artist’s socio-political environment.


In addition to being an artist, Thein is the co-founder and director of the Sunflower Art Gallery in Yangon, Myanmar. As co-founder and director, she has developed several initiatives and organized several art exhibitions and fairs, including showcases of children’s art in Myanmar and Cambodia and shows for psychiatric patients.


As an advocate for art, education, and creative expression, she has been a vocal critic of the restrictive curricula in Myanmar (Burma). She has taught art to children for 15 years and serves as an editor for a youth magazine in Yangon. In 2021, she co-founded the Association for Myanmar Contemporary Arts (AMCA) with fellow Myanmar artists and friends in New York. In 2023, she became a member of the Santa Fe Society of Artists. In 2017, director Min Min Hein documented Thein’s artistic practice and life in the short film Listen.