Soe Yu Nwe draws on the folklore and vernacular arts of Myanmar, as well as Buddhist and animistic practices. Growing up in Yangon, she completed her formal education in the United States, and in 2016 returned to Myanmar where she established a studio. Working with clay allows her to express her feelings of disconnection when away from home, and to explore elements of her culture and heritage.

In her works, the female body is often fragmented and transformed into visceral, semi-botanical sculptures, resembling vessels formed from tangled thorn bushes, overgrown with weeds and flowers. The serpent is significant personally and symbolically, representing transformation and sexuality. In Myanmar, the goddess of serpent dragons is Naga Mae-Daw, often venerated in the country’s numerous pagoda temples. Said to be of pre-Buddhist origin, she rules over magical spirits known as Nagas, transformative snake-like beings that live in rivers, lakes, oceans and in the bottom of wells.

Painted wooden idols representing gods, goddesses and mythical beings; pagoda temples; marionettes; the heart-shaped leaves of the Bodhi tree; and ‘spirit houses’ – shrines built to placate the spirits of trees, forests and mountains that have been disrupted by human habitation – all inspire her practice.

Exhibited in 'The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT9) | 24 Nov 2018 – 28 Apr 2019


  • Title: Naga Maedaw serpent
  • Creator: Soe Yu Nwe b.1989
  • Date Created: 2018
  • Location Created: Myanmar
  • Physical Dimensions: Five parts: 133 x 48 x 37cm (overall)
  • Provenance: Purchased 2018. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: APT9, The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art
  • Type: Ceramic
  • Publisher: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art
  • Rights: © Soe Yu New
  • External Link: Soe Yu Nwe’s serpent is significant personally and symbolically
  • Medium: Glazed porcelain, china paint, gold and mother of pearl lustre
  • Art Form: Ceramic

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