- A Study into the Gendered Scripts
Installation at Venice Biennale 2019
“Women’s Writing”, Nüshu in Chinese, is a writing system developed by and only passed on among the female population of small villages in South Hunan Province. Derived from square Chinese characters, Nüshu takes on a whimsical shape, looking almost like dancing figures. For an exhibition during the residency, a round table embroidery session was initiated, where the audience was invited to embroider their own Nüshu characters. On the backside of the fabric, the characters become even more abstract like a language in its own right.
In Japan, similarly, women developed a simplified writing style from Chinese cursive script, known as Onnade, meaning “Women’s Hand”, (later known as Hiragana), females used it to author literature, private communications among each other, as well as waka poems. While Kanji was dominantly practiced by men, and used to write official documents. The four lenticulars shown here demonstrate how Chinese characters became “folded” into the Japanese Onnade tradition.
four lenticulars demonstrate how Chinese characters became “folded” into the Japanese Onnade
Onnade and Nüshu appeared and manifested themselves in distinct ways. Eventually Onnade gained the upper hand and became the accepted form of writing together with Kanji, while Chinese Nüshu is now a dying practice considered cultural heritage. Yet together they tell the story of our shared history and memory — how women in different countries gave themselves a voice in a restricted and patriarchal environment, and how our communities and societies are connected through this resourceful act of defiance.