Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fighting sexual harassment with art

“My guess is 85 percent of Myanmar women have suffered physical sexual harassment and 95pc of Myanmar women have suffered verbal sexual harassment.”

Chuu Wai Nyein with her works. Photo: Nyo Me / The Myanmar TimesChuu Wai Nyein with her works. Photo: Nyo Me / The Myanmar Times

That’s the verdict of artist Chuu Wai Nyein, 24, who has a new solo exhibition titled “Synonym of Self” at Gallery 65.

The exhibition looks at themes like bravery, self-respect and passion that Myanmar women have in the face of different types of sexual harassment.

The 61 paintings took two and a half years to complete.

The origin of this concept was the sexual harassment faced by the artist’s sister, Zin Pwint Phyu.

One morning, Chuu Wai Nyein and Zin Pwint Phyu were on the way to breakfast when “suddenly, a boy came and touched my sister’s chest roughly and ran away. She was so shocked and cried out loud,” said Chuu Wai Nyein.

So she decided to monitor and document how women in Myanmar are disrupted, bullied and patronised on an everyday basis.

“When we go outside, we are subjected to the rough words of men. When we go to festivals, we are touched frequently.”

“When a male wears short pants, people don’t say anything. But when a female does, society wants to control her.”

In this exhibition, she uses traditional htamein and longyi fabrics as canvas. And her sister, Zin Pwint Phyu posed as the model of her paintings.

The artist conveys bravery, self-respect and passion.The artist conveys bravery, self-respect and passion.

The subject in each artwork expresses confidence, intelligence and beauty.

“One of my artworks in the Wildest Poison series is the one I like the most. All my ideas are included in this one painting. There’s a figure of a sexy girl with an ‘I don’t care’ pose – painted on a man’s longyi.”

Chuu Wai Nyein went to the Technological University, Mandalay before studying art at the National University of Arts and Culture, Mandalay.

She established the “Young Dream” art group in 2015 at the American Center of Mandalay. There are now around 70 members.

Exhibition visitor U Than Tun Aung, 58, summed up the artist with one simple word: “Brave”.

“Synonym of Self” finishes tomorrow at Gallery 65, 65 Yaw Min Gyi Street, Dagon Township.