The Art

Myanmar

Title

Breaking Self

Technique

Acrylic on Fabric

Size

121x91 cm

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Artist Statement

Fabric is not just material but a site of social struggle. Clothing has become the object of a tug of war between patriarchal and feminist ideas of how women live in society. For generations, fabric has been used to encase traditional notions of femininity, however, a movement of resistance to both military and patriarchal power is springing up to fight this.
This project weaves together history, culture and religion to tell the story of this struggle.
In Myanmar, tradition maintains that a man’s ‘hpone’ (their masculine essence) can be lost if he passes under female clothing such as the longyi, a traditional long skirt ubiquitous in Myanmar. This belief is so common that it is unquestioned by almost all Burmese people. In everyday life, for instance, women will not hang their clothes higher than male clothes or will even hide them while drying for fear of ‘contaminating’ the male’s ‘hpone’.

Because of these beliefs, feminist resistance within Myanmar society has sometimes been able to use their clothing as a weapon and a flag of rebellion. During recent skirmishes following the 2021 military coup, streets in Yangon and other urban centers were draped in women’s longyis, goading the military soldiers who, trapped by superstition, refused to walk under the garments and thus would not enter these communities of resistance. This movement became known as the Sarong Revolution.

On the other side, the Military began a campaign forbidding woman from wearing any other
garments except the longyi, believing that all other clothing styles were an assault on the
traditional culture of Myanmar and assuming a self-appointed role as 'guardians of tradition' from outside influences.

Throughout her career. Chuu's artwork has drawn on multiple influences and themes. In this project, she has woven these various themes together to create a blended aesthetic that highlights her diverse set of interests and passions.

About The Artist

Chuu Wai

Chuu Wai is a Mandalay artist who has been active since 2008 when she began studying at the National University of Art and Culture (Mandalay) and Technological University (Mandalay). She has had eight solo exhibitions and already had about 30 local and international exhibitions including London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong and Canberra. She was invited as a speaker for international and local art talks and events such as Women’s Forum (Singapore), Global Entrepreneurship Week, British Embassy class, etc.

She is a founder of ‘Young Dream’ under the Jefferson Center (Mandalay) which is a group organizing workshops and exhibitions for young artists. In Myanmar, she is also well known as a young influencer artist and was for example selected to be part of the Myanmar Influencer Award. Chuu shared her inspiration and motivation on many TV channels, medias and press articles, including BBC News, VOA Burmese News, Polskie Radio, Trebuchet Magazine, Frontier, The Myanmar Time, MNTV, MRTV 4 and many more.

Since 2015, Chuu has been working on paintings which reflect her interest in the female identity when her artistic impulse found a new outlet after the sexual harassment of a guy on the street. This experience made her focus on gender issues and the condition of women in Myanmar today. The artist, who is an engineer as well as a painter, has created a series of works with many layers which conceal and reveal. The paintings are created against the many ways society controls and scrutinizes women more than men, the ways that women resist and the way that culture is evolving. She sees her paintings as part of that evolution.

Chuu Wai is interested in discovering and working with handcrafted materials which showcased artwork made in part with traditional hta-meins and longgyis (traditional long, wrap skirt) fabrics as canvases. The strong, confident, sexy women depicted with traditional (male) accessories challenge the control of society over women. Like her peers today, the women in the paintings are sexy, playful, confident, and thoughtful – no longer prepared to accept the traditional role Myanmar society has thrust upon them for too long.

https://chuuwai.com/

chuu_wai

The Process

The Interview

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