Wai Wai Nu

Acrylic on canvas
36 x 36"

2020
This painting depicts Wai Wai Nu, a woman working for human rights and dignity in full awareness of the distinct vulnerability and catalytic strength of women. In doing so, she has founded two NGOs: Justice for Women, and Women Peace Network Arakan, which provide legal support and workshops in women’s empowerment, women’s rights, and peace-building to all—women, men, youth, and minorities.

She is rendered life size, set amid native flora and natural geographic features of Myanmar. Wai Wai grew up in Buthidaung, her family’s ancestral home on the west bank of the Mayu River in Rakhine State. As a young law student, she and her family were imprisoned due to her father’s political organizing. She served seven years of her sentence, a period she has called a “University of Life”—from the stories of imprisoned women and girls she learned the failures of existing systems and resolved to change them. 

Upon her release in 2012, amid renewed violence against the Rohingya, she focused her efforts on supporting women, explaining, “if I empowered the women from our community and also women from the rest of the communities, put them together and made them friends and built trust, then [we could] aim to build peace in Rakhine State and the rest of Burma.”

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