Sworn Sisters 女书
24 May - 14 July
The title of this exhibition is an indirect translation from the Chinese Nüshu, which means literally, women’s writing. It is a syllabic script derived from Chinese characters that was used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County in Hunan province of southern China, possibly from the 13th century onwards. A large number of the Nüshu works were called "third day missives" (三朝书; 三朝書; sānzhāoshū), cloth bound booklets created by laotong, "sworn sisters" (结拜姊妹; 結拜姊妹; jiébàizǐmèi) and mothers and given to other "sworn sisters" or daughters upon their marriage.
Songs in Nüshu were delivered on the third day after the young woman's marriage, and typically expressed the hopes for the happiness of the young woman leaving the village and sorrow for her parting. The script was suppressed by the Japanese during their invasion of China in the 1930s-40s, because they feared that the Chinese could use it to send secret messages.
The works of the “Sworn Sisters” in this exhibition also contain deep messages. about the complex and changing role of women in it. Each of the works has their individual features and artistic language. Collectively, they represent a Chinese woman’s voice in responding to the currents of change in their society.
The exhibition aims to challenge stereotypes of Chinese women as submissive and passive homemakers. Each featured artist brings unique perspectives to the question of what is a modern Chinese woman in a China that is rapidly transforming itself economically, socially and culturally?
The exhibition is curated by Dr Geoff Raby, the former Australian Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China (2007-11). He has been involved in fostering Australia-China relationship for over 30 years. Geoff is a keen art collector and has been involved in shaping contemporary Chinese art from 1980s onwards. He has an in-depth understanding of contemporary Chinese art and has built relationships with a wide network of contemporary Chinese artists.