Yoga lesson

Adrienne

This is of Youtube yoga teacher Adriene! I’ve been practising along with her videos for years now (and you can too if you click here!)

Yoga is a valuable part of my life; after a long day hunching over my desk (I sit in some seriously awkward positions) I love having something that gets me moving, increases my strength and gives me a wonderful stretch out!

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Shoreditch Paintings

Emmy

The image above is of my good friend Emmy. We went on a trip to Shoreditch in London when it was FREEZING cold near the start of this year. I really love to work from photos I’ve taken, I think the memories associated with the photograph come through in the painting (or perhaps that’s just me!)

The illustration below is from the same trip, of the Gherkin taken on a misty morning.

London

Figure 22: Laxmi Agarwal

Laxmi.pngLaxmi was fifteen when she was attacked with acid on the way to a music lesson. She had rejected a marriage proposal, and the 32 year old man stalked her and attacked her for this decision. This is a similar story to many other victims of acid attacks in India, where acid was readily available and cheaper than milk.

But Laxmi doesn’t want you to call her a victim. Laxmi is an individual, who knows that her worth is not just skin deep.

“Today I love my face because I realized your face is not the only important thing. I didn’t give importance to my face. I gave importance to my work.”
In 2013, Laxmi brought a petition with 27,000 signatures to the Supreme Court, protesting how readily available acid was. This led to legislation which restricted the sale of acid, as well as providing help and compensation to survivors. She received the International Woman of Courage Award from Michelle Obama, delivered a Ted Talk, and is now a TV host. This is all in addition to her campaigning for Stop Acid Attacks.
Laxmi crop
Acid attacks are often rooted in sexism, with 80% of victims being female, often attacked, like Laxmi, by rejected suitors or abusive fathers or partners.
Today, Laxmi is raising a daughter with her partner and fellow activist Alok Dixit. They decided not to marry, which I think is pretty cool, when the fixation with marriage is what resulted in her attack in the first place!
There is so much that could be said about the rising number of acid attacks, not only in India but across the globe. I could comment on the sexist nature of it, the desire to make a woman undesirable, but it’s such a complicated subject and one I can’t pretend to be an expert in. The most amazing thing is the ways in which many women choose to fight against the stigma and push for improvement in legislation. I am inspired by Laxmi’s courage to campaign for change, legally and socially, and her determination to be happy no matter what judgement she faces.
I recommend this article from the BBC and this CNN article, which also has a short video.
Unfortunately I can’t find a translation or subtitles for her Ted Talk – if anyone does, please let me know, I would love to know what she says in it!

 

Sketchbook Pages 1

people sketchbook

people sketchbook2

Hello there!

I’ve been a lot slower with work recently. I finally got my routine perfected when… well, life happened a bit! I’ve been pretty busy with family stuff and a couple of great new design jobs, and my personal work has taken a bit of a back seat! But the other day I got the ball rolling again by having a little sketching session in the evening, watching TV and mostly drawing what I saw. So, some of these faces you may recognise from Celebrity Bake Off, while the people with coffee and books are thoughts for an upcoming project. I hope you like them! There will be another set up here soon.

Lots of Love!

Sketchbook Pages: London

trees
Playing with tree shapes on the train

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I went to London last week. It’s only about an hour away on the train from Leicester which is such a treat! London always feels buzzy, like something important is happening and people are achieving big things. This is layered with a thousand years of history all around you, knowing how much has happened there in the past too makes it really exciting for me! It’s an atmosphere I absolutely love soaking up.

This is without mentioning the museums!! The National Gallery is my favourite, of course, as it inspired my deep love of the Netherlandish Primitive style, and houses so many famous paintings that you see often in art history books.

Speaking of museums, the second image is a sketch I did in the National Portrait Gallery based on a painting of The Family of Sir Robert Vyner. I wanted to live in this painting when I was little! I think that the people look so real, it almost feels as though if you look closely enough at the painting you could get to know them. Apart from their clothing, can’t you picture walking past them in the street?

Trafalgar

I finished up by sitting in the Waterstones across from the Gallery, reading and sketching the outside. This didn’t take long but I really like it!!

 

 

Figure 21: Wai Wai Nu

Wai WaiWai Wai Nu (1987 – ) Was studying for a law degree when, in 2005, she was sentenced to 17 years in prison along with her family. Their supposed crimes were that her father had spoken out against the brutal military regime that ruled Myanmar from 1962-2011.

Wai Wai was shocked to be imprisoned, as she had been taught that only criminals went to jail; she questioned her families’ behaviour, wondering if they really had done something wrong.

However, in prison, meeting the other women she was incarcerated with, she saw that many of them were as young as her, whose crimes were either non-existant, or were committed due to poverty, coercion, or both.

After the collapse of the regime in 2011, when she was 25, Wai Wai and her family were freed. She completed her law degree and immediately began working as an agent of change.

Wai Wai is a Rohingya. This is a Muslim minority living in a Buddhist country who have been the victims of what the UN have called a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing.’

Wai Wai closeUnlike many of her people, Wai Wai’s family were somewhat middle class, and she has access to a passport, something denied to many other Rohingya people. She uses her comparatively privileged position, which is backed up by her seven years in prison and her understanding of the treatment of the Rohingya people, to give talks and interviews around the world, advocating for understanding and kindness between people of all walks of life.

She set up two NGOs; Women’s Peace Network-Arakan has since spread to include men and different regions of Myanmar, and uses workshops and training to promote understanding between different groups. The other, Justice for Women, she organises workshops to educate women about their rights, and offers legal council.

The plight of the Rohingya people is a terrible one, and I feel that it was discussed for perhaps a week on the news here in the UK before disappearing again. But the crisis is real, and tolerance in Myanmar seems to be a real issue between religious and cultural groups. By avoiding using potentially divisive terms (The Pope, during a recent visit, was warned to avoid it, as it could cause violence to break out) and spreading a message of love, kindness and tolerance, Wai Wai Nu is helping her country to move past hatred and fear, and towards a better future.

For more info, read this!

Figure 20: Margaret Ekpo

Margaret

Margaret Ekpo (1914-2006) was a Nigerian feminist and politician, Margaret fought against the economic and political inequalities faced by women.

Born in Creek Town, Calabar, Margaret’s first direct involvement in politics didn’t come until 1945, when she attended a meeting when her husband was unable to attend in Aba. She was the only woman there, but the fiery speeches she heard ignited her passion for politics, and by the 50’s she was well known across Nigeria and abroad as a force for change and a fierce advocate for women. She encouraged women to be politically aware; to participate in politics in order to protect their own interests, as well as the interests of their country.

A key example of this is when she established the Aba Township Women’s Association. In line with the views of many of the local men, the organisation wanted to educate the women to support their countries; but evidently the men didn’t like the idea of the women also being mobilised to take care of their own interests, as none of the men of Aba wanted to let their womenfolk join. Margaret thought outside the box; she managed to gain a monopoly on the salt supplies in Aba, which were in short supply due to the second World War, and told the shops that they may only sell to women who were members of her organisation. After that, the men quickly allowed their women to join up, and women voters outnumbered men by 1954.

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In 1949, when protesting the murders of miners leading a wage protest, she and three other important female leaders were arrested, harassed and threatened with deportation. They were eventually arrested after the women of Aba threatened to set fire to the town, which is a pretty impressive display of gratitude!

Hand in hand with her feminism was her desire to help Nigeria to gain independence from the British, a goal that they achieved in 1960. Margaret was one of the Members of Parliament that year, and throughout the 50’s and 60’s represented Nigerian interests, and usually specifically those of Nigerian women, in many official capacities.

Margaret was dignified but willing to take risks. Her political career seems to have quietened down a lot after the 60’s, but Ekpo is remembered fondly as a ‘Giant of 20th Century Nigerian Politics,’ who got involved at a pivotal moment of her country’s history; and her work encouraging 50% of the entire population to get involved in politics can’t have hurt the cause for Nigerian independence!

 

 

Figure 18: Cut Nyak Dhien

Cut

Cut Nyak Dhein (1848 – 1908) was an upperclass Indonesian woman turned guerrilla freedom fighter who has become a symbol of the Indonesian resistance against Dutch invasion.

Born into the ruling class, Cut was married at the age of 12 to a man from another upperclass family. When Cut was 25 years old, the Dutch declared war on the Sultanate of Aceh (now a province of Indonesia) in order to gain control over the area, which was in a strategic position for the export of valuable peppercorns.

Cut spent the first three years keeping away from the war to take care of her child. However, when her husband was killed in action in 1878 she swore to take revenge on the Dutch. She spent the next 25 years fighting against them.

She got married again, and had another child, but refused to stop fighting the holy war, as her nation had declared it. Her second husband, Teuku Uma, was considered a hero, and as a pair they raised moral among the troops. At this point they were fighting a guerrilla war, laying traps and ambushes, but they were running low on supplies and in serious danger of defeat.

In a radical move, Cut and her husband surrendered, and spent the next two years working with the Dutch, inspiring their trust, to the horror of their own people. However, the couple were never loyal to the Dutch, and, while pretending to fight on their side, Cut and Teuku vanished back to their guerrilla army, equipped with lots of supplies taken from the Dutch to arm them!

Unfortunately for the native people of Aceh, the Dutch replaced their general with a man who would go to any lengths to win the war, and under his watch many atrocities were committed. The fear that this inspired meant that the tide of the war began to turn against the Acehnese, and the main base of the rebel army was discovered and Cut’s second husband was killed in 1899. Two years later Cut’s fight finally came to an end too, as she was captured, and sent into exile, where she lived until she died in 1908.

After her death Cut has remained a popular figure in Indonesia. In 1964 she was acknowledged by President Sukarno as a National Hero of Indonesia through Presidential Decree, and with an airport and a hospital named after her, as well as being depicted on the nation’s banknotes, Cut Nyak Dhein has not been forgotten in her homeland.

Even so, it took a lot of research to find her, and if my writing about her sounds dry it’s because the information about her in English that I have found is either made up of dry facts or is from blog posts, when normally I try to get more reliable sources (preferably ones that don’t refer to the female subject as ‘he’! I assume it’s because English wasn’t the writer’s first language, but it hardly inspires confidence!)

I think more people should know about this women who seems to have been indefatigable in her fight for justice, a fight which took everything from her – including her health; she was referred to when she was captured as an ‘old woman,’ and she certainly looks it, and she was losing her vision, but she was actually only 53 when she was captured!

Cut’s strength in the face of such adversary, and the fact that she outlived her father, both husbands and died the same year as her daughter, all of whom were killed in the fighting, must be a testament to her bravery and intelligence. I hope that you will remember this woman and her amazing work!

Figure 19: Grace Lee Boggs

Grace

Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) was a Civil Rights activist who advocated for social change, and was a philosopher, writer and feminist.

She grew up comfortably; her parents were very successful in the restaurant business, her father being described as “the king of the restaurant businessmen among the Chinese.” She studied Philosophy at College from the age of 16, earning a doctorate by 1940, and she became involved in Socialism, even translating some of Karl Marx’s early letters from German. Unfortunately, after graduating she was unable to get any work even in a department store, as they would not hire ‘orientals.’

She eventually found a job in the philosophy library of the University of Chicago, which paid $10 a week; she had to live for free in a rat-infested basement. The irony of this terrible situation is that those rats helped her get involved with the Civil Rights Movement! Walking through her neighbourhood one day, she saw a group protesting poor living conditions – including living with pests. Something must have clicked for Grace, and this was her first step to being involved with the black community and the struggles they faced.

Grace close.jpg

In 1953 Grace moved to Detroit, where she helped to edit the radical newspaper Correspondence.  a hub for the type of ideas Grace had been cultivating; especially about black worker’s rights and revolutionary thinking. The same year she married a fellow activist and inspiring speaker, James Boggs, who she met in Detroit.

They became the city’s most noted activists, hosting Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the couple tackled issues including Civil Rights, feminism, the environment and Asian Americans. She believed in peaceful protests, and was a firm believer in the ability of the individual to change their own life. As the world changed and they moved into the 1970’s, and as Detroit declined, with rising rates of murder, issues with drug addiction, and theft, Grace got involved in finding peaceful ways to improve the city, with organisations which helped school children and planted community gardens.

Grace also wrote several books and went on to guest lecture at universities, even at 97 years old. She died at the age of 100, and never stopped trying to help others, changing the world in smaller ways than she and her friends dreamed of in her earlier years.

“I don’t know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it if your imagination were rich enough.”

You can more about Grace’s life and her activism here and here!