Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Jennifer Mourin, Penang, Malaysia
Artist and WABA consultant celebrating strong mothers
I am a Malaysian artist of Eurasian descent, living and working on the island of Penang. Art has always been a huge part of my life and psyche. It has fed my soul and kept me sane. Recently I’ve returned with vigor to this, my soul’s longing, following a period filled with studies, demanding jobs, and familial responsibilities. I’m essentially and happily self-taught.
For the most part, my art features and celebrates the strength, creativity, and camaraderie of women. My canvases feature and celebrate strong women—as mothers, friends, caregivers, environmentalists, lovers, goddesses, and more—responding to challenges facing their communities and environments. I revel in the power of women supporting women, mothers supporting mothers.
My own personal and close relationship with my mother has inspired an appreciation of the role and the hard work involved in being a mother. Benevolently haunted by memories of my mother’s Thai village in the state of Kelantan, I have turned a love of the batik sarongs that women wore there and the strength of the women I knew there, into totems for my artistic identity. I use acrylics and oil inks, but love the flexibility and fluidity of gouache.
Breastfeeding is a recurring theme in my pictures. Working as a consultant with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has informed me on the current issues, but what seals my conviction for supporting breastfeeding mothers is grassroots experience. As mothers, women face a multitude of challenges and daily pressures, especially when wanting to breastfeed, whether working in the home or outside it.
I’m incredulous at how a loving, nurturing act—and source of infant survival—such as breastfeeding is, can often be considered a controversial, even an obscene act in society’s cynically jaundiced eyes. A mother has a right to choose to breastfeed her child. When she does, it is only right that she is supported to do so, to nurture her child at home, in the workplace or elsewhere. She exists as a part of the society she lives in. This support should come from her husband/partner, immediate and extended family, her community, and her socio-political leaders.
A major problem fueling the stigmatization of breastfeeding mothers is the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. This has created a polarisation in how society views women (the “Madonna vs whore” polemic), where mothers are vilified for daring to bare their breasts to feed their children. That is still a function of breasts, in case anyone forgets!
My most recent work, “Resisting the Jaundiced Eye” aims to make breastfeeding visible, explores the polarising aspects of woman’s identity, and comments on the censure, peering/leering jaundiced eye of society in its unwarranted criticism of and prejudice against women who breastfeed.
- March 2011. Creative Women’s Exhibit as part of the Penang State government International Women’s Day celebrations.
- May 2011. 20th Anniversary of WABA. Celebrating and Supporting Women as Mothers, Workers and Nurturers, Gallery Seni Mutiara, Penang.
- December 2011. “Small Works Big Show,” Penang.
- January 2012 to present. International Museum of Women (IMOW) “MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.”
- June 2012 . “Flame of the Forrest – Devotion” as community breastfeeding support poster, Te Rapakau Pacific Trust of Hamilton, New Zealand.
- November 2012. “The New and The Constant,” Chai Diam Ma, Georgetown, Penang.
- WWF Malaysia, “Green Heart Inspires Green-hearted Artist.”
- May 2013. International Women Artists at Island Gallery, Georgetown, Penang.
- January 2014. Cover artist and winner of the Global Family art contest in Art278 Magazine.
- CD cover of Peaceful Practices UK’s “Mother and Baby Nurture” and for Hypnotic Hypnobirthing Australia.
- January 2015. Life and Soul.
- February 2015. Ravenhawks.
- March 2015 . Hin Bus Depot Art Centre.
- “Resisting the Jaundiced Eye” at the Whiteaways Gallery Penang, as part of the “Make It Happen,” International Women’s Day event.
- August 2015. International Women Artists Exhibition, Penang State Art Gallery, Dewan Sri Pinang, Penang.