2022: Sukena Shah

The George Mason Visual Arts Scholarship 2022 recipient
2022 Sukena Shah

Sukena Shah, To be a Brown Woman, September 2022.
Courtesy the artist.

"Post-colonization, South Asia became a dangerous place for women. Our dances, plays, poems and Visual Art told ancient stories of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth and these art forms were led mainly by South Asian women. This was drastically changed after colonisation to please the western understanding of the woman and her ‘duty’ - to be a mother, to serve men and to be hidden. Since colonisation, art led and embraced by women such as dance was tainted with ideas of prostitution. I do not accept this.

Although this profession is no longer as condemned, some of these patronising ideas become apparent in the way women are seen. For instance, there are views that South Asian women who embrace their femininity ‘deserve’ to be sexually harassed, those who work will never find a husband (because that’s what completes a woman, right?), and if they speak out, they are unmannered and should’ve been raised better.

Fortunately for me, my parents encourage me to participate in the arts (Visual Art and Drama) and to use it as a tool to expose the archaic mindsets that still linger in South Asia today.

Next year I hope to attend University of Auckland to do a conjoint degree in Law and the Fine Arts. I hope this will help me change the lives of women in South Asia who suffer at the hand of uneducated men."