Strokes of Resilience art exhibition helps survivors of domestic violence


Guests at the Strokes of Resilience: Empowerment through Art exhibition.

Saksi Malaysia and Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) held an art exhibition to raise funds for WAO's work with survivors of domestic violence on International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and in conjunction with the annual 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign,

Titled 'Strokes of Resilience: Empowerment through Art', the exhibition is Saksi's way of giving artists a platform to advocate for the elimination of violence against women.

Statistics show one in three women worldwide face various forms of violence. In Peninsula Malaysia, research has indicated that at least 9% (one in 10) of women have currently or previously, been in situations of domestic violence.

A painting by Memeto Jack titled 'My Body Is Not A Public Space'.A painting by Memeto Jack titled 'My Body Is Not A Public Space'.This means if you’re in a group of 10 women, one of those women has experienced or is experiencing intimate partner violence, says WAO executive director Sumitra Visvanathan.

"But more than this, we deal with individual cases and individual women. This goes beyond the statistics and every day, WAO’s team responds to women and children who are in crisis," says Sumitra.

"If we eliminate violence against women, we create a safer society, a better community, a stronger economy, and a country that is resilient, inclusive and stands for everybody’s rights," she adds.

"The artists who have created these amazing artworks have helped us do something very important, to communicate, shed light, bring attention, raise awareness, open everybody's eyes towards violence against women."

"They have done something incredibly important because what you see on the canvas is forever. And moving forward from now to the future, anyone who lays eyes on any of these artworks, is going to think, be aware, and know that violence against women occurs and that it is wrong," says Sumitra.

Platform for expression

"We reached out to Malaysian artists – established, up-and-coming, as well as new, first time artists - anyone who has a passion for art and wants to advocate for the elimination of violence against women. There was a window of about a month and many responded. But due to space constraints, we could only select around 20 pieces for the exhibition," says Saksi coordinator Astrid Van Dort from Saksi.

This is Saksi's first open (public) art event and we had a good response from professional artists, first-time artists, even a savant artist. And the youngest participant was a 12-year-old girl, she says.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was a wearable art piece by House of Antara which was auctioned off and 100% of the proceeds (the winning bid was RM850) was contributed to WAO’s work with survivors of domestic violence.

Twelve-year-old Sanayah is the youngest participant in the exhibition.Twelve-year-old Sanayah is the youngest participant in the exhibition.Sanayah Vig, 12, the youngest artist to participate in the event, contributed a mixed medium piece that took her four to five days to complete.

“It signifies the emotions that teenagers normally feel: mad, sad, disappointed. The colour purple is the aura of the teens. Just as in violence against women and girls, I wish to bring to light the presence of such feelings and how we should be more open to ask for and accept help when there is a need."

“It’s to show those who experience violence and abuse that ‘you’re not alone’ and that ‘you can share your feelings and thoughts’,” she says.

Han says his art depicts a woman going through sexual harassment with stickers representing the different types of violence she experiences.Han says his art depicts a woman going through sexual harassment with stickers representing the different types of violence she experiences.Storyboard artist for commercials and animation Han Hung Siew says it's his first time participating in an advocacy through art exhibition.

"My art piece shows a woman going through sexual harassment with stickers representing the different types of violence she experiences. There are hands with black nails trying to hurt her, and hands with red nails trying to help her. And there is a third eye to show the survivor’s enlightenment to help her own self," he says.

Han who has been into art "ever since (he) could hold a pencil as a child in kindergarten", says it took him two days to paint his piece.

"I decided to join the exhibition because I was inspired by the theme. This is a good theme and it’s a good platform for artists to show their art and also their support for this cause – elimination of violence against women. I would encourage more of this type of events to create awareness," he says.

Savant artist Wan Jamila and her art manager-cum-guardian Noor Sa’adah.Savant artist Wan Jamila and her art manager-cum-guardian Noor Sa’adah.

The exhibition also attracted autistic savant artist Wan Jamilah whose piece is part of her Emotions Series.

According to her Art Manager and aunt/guardian, Noor Sa’adah Mohd Noordin, the painting "delves into the lives of women who grapple with pervasive social issues that afflict communities worldwide such as gender-based violence".

"These women confront mounting challenges, resulting in the development of mental issues due to isolation from loved ones and friends. The myriad expressions depicted on the canvas portray a range of emotions from anger and shock, to fleeting moments of happiness, to times of profound despair," she explains.

Chong says survivors often hide the violence they've experienced instead of seeking help, and this is what his artwork is about.Chong says survivors often hide the violence they've experienced instead of seeking help, and this is what his artwork is about.Artist Michael Chong’s piece shows “a seated nude figure, embracing herself, embodying a gesture of helpless self-preservation”.

According to Chong, a survivor’s silence is what his artwork is about and that the absence of physical scars is also a central focus in his artwork.

"Many mistakenly associate violence only with visible scars, overlooking the enduring impact of emotional and psychological wounds inflicted by verbal violence – wounds that are too frequently downplayed or readily forgiven."

Toofan with his artwork titled 'Sexual Harassment Faced by Women In Public Transport'.Toofan with his artwork titled 'Sexual Harassment Faced by Women In Public Transport'.

Toofan Majumder, an IT professional from Calcutta, India, who has been based in Kuala Lumpur for five years, reveals that "despite having a passion for painting, this is his first time participating in an art exhibition".

When I read in The Star about the exhibition and call for artwork, I was inspired to contribute, he says.

"This is because it's a topic that's very close to my heart. My artwork has a very direct message and people can immediately relate to it. I believe many women have faced this type of sexual harassment at some point in their lives because it’s very common on crowded public transport," says Toofan.

"Art is not just about keeping something beautiful in your home for decoration. But rather, art is meant to create awareness, to advocate for causes, to tell a story, to send a message," says Toofan.

He adds that there are symbolisms in his artwork.

"I used red colour for the perpetrators to signify danger, blue for the women who were on the receiving end of the sexual harassment to signify their helplessness in the situation, and green on the others who were observers to show neutrality. And the W is to signify ‘Women’," explains Toofan.

Some of the artwork is still up for sale. For more information, visit: Strokes of Resilience Art Catalogue


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