Hybridized Beings: Soe Yu Nwe

Myanmar is a religious country. I am fascinated in the religious, spiritual and supernatural imagery and the role they play in shaping an individual’s identity or that of a society as a whole. In my work, I weave together these thoughts and fascination in my visual vocabulary as I began to define myself and depict my place in the world. Due to my interest in the supernatural, local animistic beliefs, and folklores, mythology is a source of inspiration. I am particularly interested in the female figures in Buddhist mythologies.

Featured prominently in this exhibition, is the the image of Naga Mae Daw (Burmese Dragon Queen). My interest in Naga Mae Daw developed after visiting Botataung Pagoda in my neighborhood. I was inspired by a Burmese Nat who was enshrined there called Mya Nan Nwe. She was a devoted Buddhist and believed by some to be the reincarnation of Naga (Burmese dragon). In this new body of work, I reconfigured a Naga Mae Daw’s head into various configuration, narrating and exploring notions of interiority, fertility, spirituality and the sense of confinement felt by being female in a conservative society such as Myanmar.

A name is a set of words in which a person is known and therefore a crucial part of one’s identity. How belief (thought system) and culture infiltrates into this signifier of oneself is fascinating to me. The imagery I used in my work reference my name and myself. My Chinese nick name is Tree(樹) Flower(花). Before deciding on “Tree Flower”, the oracle my family used to name me initially agreed on “Dragon Flower (龍花)”. My family deemed this name “too masculine” and declined the name. I am fascinated with this change and imagery from my name comprises the narratives of my work- Sculptures depicting my foot bound with that of my mother’s, imagery of Naga women and my hands transforming into the botanics reminiscent of Greek goddess Daphne. As I reconfigured these symbols and icons, I reflect upon my otherness through making- conceiving the self as a fluid, fragile and fragmented entity. Through transfiguration of my emotional landscape by poetically depicting nature and body in parts, I ponder the complexities of individual identity in globalized society.

Soe Yu Nwe is a pioneering ceramic artist from Myanmar. After earning her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in the United States, she participated in multiple international exhibitions and artist residency programs. She recently joined the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane Australia and was named Forbes 30 under 30: Art and Style List in 2019. She currently lives between Yangon and the United States.

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