- A Study into the Gendered Scripts
“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 and local symbols, Nüshu takes on a whimsical shape, looking almost like dancing figures.
“Women’s Hand”, Onnade in Japanese, is a simplified writing style developed by women from Chinese cursive script, (later known as Hiragana), while Kanji was dominantly practiced by men at the time, and used to write official documents.
The lenticular installation shown here demonstrates how one Chinese character became “folded” into Chinese Nüshu (Women’s Writing) and Japanese Onnade (Women’s Hand) respectively.
Installation at The Orchid and The Wasp
Nüshu and Onnade 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.
A poetry reading of some of the women’s writings was carried out during the exhibition.
“Women’s Writing”, 女书 (Nüshu) in Chinese, is a script developed by and only passed on among the female population of small villages in South Hunan Province. Derived from square Chinese characters and local symbols, Nüshu takes the shape of rhombus, looking almost like dancing figures.
Nüshu has historically served an important role of communication and emancipation for local women; it enabled them to express themselves openly and freely in restricted and patriarchal imperial China: they frequently exchanged letters, poems, songs, prayers, tales, wedding congratulations, etiquette advice, etc. towards each other.
Lines of Nüshu poems
Nüshu culture goes beyond the writing system. The definition of a fluent Nüshu user includes singing, writing, embroidery and the sworn sisterhood. These activities bring the local women together, create a strong bond among them, and allows time and space where they could exchange emotions and ideas.
Here below are several projects I've developed around the subject of Nüshu during the artist residency at Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai.
Exhibition view at Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai