AWAM stands for All Women's Actions Society. AWAM is an independent non profit feminist organisation committed to improving the lives of women in Malaysia.
I was browsing through my collections of old paintings, some that I painted one or two years ago. I think perhaps "old" is too exaggerating a word, but when I look back and see how much I've grown I feel as though many years have passed. Time really flies.
I would love to share with every of my lovely readers my other passion besides paintings. After graduation, I was actively involved with women's rights work out of the urge to fight for justice for women in this patriachal system. I called myself a feminist and feels very upset when other women friends would question or (even laugh at) this new identity I claim. For me it's just natural, women have not been given equal opportunities in many things, our predecessors have to fight for the right to vote, women are still suffering from domestic violence, sexual harrasment at workplace, rape. Many died from female genital mutilation.
My passion in feminism got kickstarted when I was taking the subject (feminism) back in University. I have a very fascinating lecturer who always question our belief systems, and is trusting of her students' ability to grow and learn. She would question our belief systems about our bodies, our sexuality, our stereotypical perceptions about ourselves and the world. In the end, we know we need to move beyond these narrow worldviews.
(An earlier painting I named "Luna, Moon Goddess2" I'll be uploading Luna, Moon Goddess 1 in later a post, I think I was just too brave/bold to paint this and show it to the world. I have mixed feelings still. I feel shy showing these to men folks. I think I was painting this to see how comfortable I feel with female bodies)
I learnt to love my body more, I learnt to question social norms, I no longer laugh at discriminatory sexual jokes. I no longer think that women are the weaker sex, that their being emotional and nurturing is a sign of weakness. I learnt that women's power is a different kind than that of men, that women's awareness-though diffuse but is expansive, allows them to experience life and to express themselves differently.
Men suffered injustice too. I know men who could not fit in, who questions the need to put up an aggressive front and to act macho amongst their peers. I know some who are raised by single moms, and they know the depth and solidity of a woman's strength, and they don't want to partake in the discrimination of women.
I volunteered for WAO (Women's Aid Organisation) which is a sister organization of AWAM. Its focus is to shelter and help women suffering from domestic violence. It was an eye opener to work in there and I was learning from very intelligent and politically inclined women who know the ins and outs of the legal system of Malaysia. Yet even when I was helping out, I was always doing creative things for them, painting on donation boxes and decorating banners for protest or vigils. It was a different experience altogether.
After that, I was a tutor for the gender department in University of Malaysia. I was teaching the subject "women and work" and knew how our mothers and grandmothers worked for free. Housework is not paid. I am the daughter and granddaughter of women who are hardworking to the extent of being workaholics. They are disipline, persistent and dedicated. The women on my maternal side have dual roles, they are wives, mothers and women who helped their husbands out with their work. Sometimes, I think they have superhuman strength and imagine them with 8 limbs like a multitasking octopus.
Yet, the political environment of these women organization and the academia did not fulfill me. I realized that these avenue could quench my thirst for knowledge but could not fill a spiritual void inside me.
Only painting can. I know I will be happier doing artwork, establishing connection with women like myself and empowering myself by supporting them and grow together. I see so clearly now. I don't want to protest on the street, I don't want to be constantly angry and upset with the system and the government. I don't want to do women's work with alot of negative energy. Even though I have alot of respect for women who are engaging in challenging work like this.
In art museums, we tend to see works by male artists and sculptors. Female talents go mostly unacknowledged. If the traditional art museums did not acknowledge the creative potential of women, the 21st century women with artistic abilities are taking the internet by storm independently and maximizing its use to their greatest potential. I'm lucky to be riding this wave and I know so much can be done. Also, these community of supportive sisterhood is refreshing and precious. Instead of competition, I see solidarity and mutual support and generosity in offering assistance.
In being determined and serious in fulfilling my creative purpose, to make art that inspires people, to paint girls that speak of positive messages, in a way I have never left women's work.
My identity as a woman is more closely interwomen with my artist self more than ever now. I'm painting my experience as a woman, who is seeking to expand her consciousness constantly. I am painting as a spiritual and cosmic being, a woman, a playful child.
In following the calling of my heart, in being brave to be myself, I like to think I am leaving a path for my daughters and granddaughters to look up to and see it is possible to follow your dreams. A legacy of some sort, if I dare envisioned even more.
This is a really intimate a part of myself and I thank all of you for making this space a safe space to share who I am. So it's your turn now, I hope you'll share with me, your other passion in life that is not directly related to art.
What are your other passions that make you the unique individual that you are?
What kind of experience as a woman do you have that makes you ever more proud of being female?