Schoolgirl (Vietnam)

Schoolgirl celebrates girls' education and portrays a traditional Vietnames au dai, influenced by my time living in Hanoi.

Schoolgirl (Vietnam), 12"x12", oil & acrylic on canvas, 2015. 

I lived in Vietnam for 2 years in high school, and one of the more noticeable icons there is the female student in her white traditional au dai, worn as the school uniform. They are often portrayed by local artists – for both foreign and local audiences, I believe – not just for their beauty, but to celebrate the education of women. Vietnam has a national literacy rate in the 96th percentile for both female and male youth, a huge accomplishment. Perhaps more impressive is the implication that the women are almost equally as educated as the men – again, uncommon in that socioeconomic category, one that can, perhaps, be attributed to Communism, where gender was not a dividing factor (as it is in many Asian countries).

Coming from Pakistan, which has a literacy rate in the low 60s for female youth (and the high 70s for male youth), seeing fisher-women and (female!) construction workers reading on their lunch breaks made quite an impression on me. So I’ve been wanting to do a painting on this for quite some time, and here it is. 

 In my Flawless series I strive to reshape gender norms by refusing to apologize for femininity, recognizing that pretty isn't weak.