Tell us a little bit about yourself! How would you introduce yourself to people who don't know you yet?
Joanna: I’m really bad at answering this question. I believe the bio I wrote for my last art school exhibition was “My name is Joanna, I like to art and stuff ”, but I’ll give it a go. My parents hail from Sri Lanka, I was born in Dubai, I’m pretty sure I was cut out of my mother's stomach with an art diary and a Sharpie in my tiny fists (and yes, they are still tiny, pudgy, and soft) and I was raised in Sydney, Australia. Apart from creating, my favourite past times are: daydreaming, binge watching terrible television shows, insta-stalking, and chuckling at my fathers terrible jokes.
What's your definition of feminism?
J: To me, feminism is more than just equality between the sexes, it’s about treating people like humans. We live in a world where laws are based on some form of religious scripture, the ideals are very similar; be tolerant, compassionate, generous, forgiving, etc. Yet we live in a world where ignorance and hate walk hand in hand, it’s bizarre that society gives the ignorant power to devalue others. We all eat, we all shit, we all breathe, and we all bleed (in varying degrees) and we are all worthy.
Why did you decide to make art about feminism? Have you had any personal experiences that inspired your works?
J: It wasn't a conscious decision, it kind of just happened. That being said, going to therapy for the last year and a half has definitely helped me! Such a cliche, an artist that is mentally ill, who would have thought? Discovering that I have spent my childhood and early adult life suffering from clinical depression, and anxiety, AD/HD, and BDP has helped open my eyes to life. I’ve spent most of my life feeling numb, being told I was lazy because I found getting out of bed and moving quite difficult, being underestimated, speaking and acting a certain way because I thought that was what was expected of me as a female, being confused about my sexuality and being and insensitive and an uncaring asshole. That coupled with having an extremely gorgeous mother, perfect twin sister, and epic insecurities cause I didn't look like them or any other girl = eating disorder.
I guess I [make] art because I don’t want people to feel as shitty as I did growing up, I want people to act and express themselves however they want and know that it’s okay to do so, I want people to be aware of their issues, that it’s okay to have issues and that help is available, I want people to know that labels and illnesses don’t define them, and I want people to know that I like food.
Do you think it is important for feminism and art to go hand in hand? And do you think art can be one of the biggest platforms for advocating feminism in this modern age?
J: The Guerrilla Girls, Barbara Kruger, Laurie Simmons, Kathleen Hannah plus a whole bunch of other feminist artists that I can’t think of at the moment have been advocating feminism in their art for decades. To poorly quote a film I recently watched (I cant remember the name, something with Nazi’s and George Clooney): "art is the first thing we look at when we research history". Feminism is a part of everyone's history, with each wave of feminism more milestones for people are achieved, through art these achievements can live, grow and create a more tolerant society.
The interwebs has made art more accessible, that being said society is inundated with imagery, it is very easy for art to get lost amongst the crap. Social media has enabled feminists to reach out to other feminists, no longer do riot grrls have to spend hours making zines to hand out at punk gigs, all I have to do is bash a few keys on my broken iPhone and hundreds of feminists have access to view and share my work. Not only does it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I feel proud that there are so many people that are advocating for justice, and that people want to make the world a better place.
Lastly, what would you say to those people who are still confused or rather misinformed about feminism and what it stands for?
J: I suppose telling them to Google it would be extremely lazy of me. From what I have seen, most people who are confused or misinformed about feminism haven’t really had any life experience. I’m a feminist because I have experienced sexism, racism, homophobia, fat shaming and skinny shaming. I have been taunted at, bullied, beaten and ostracised. If someone hasn’t at least experienced one of those things then they are a freaking unicorn and I must have them as a pet. And if someone does not believe in preventing such behaviour then I don’t really want to have anything to do with them.
Joanna doesn't just inspire us to uphold women empowerment in art, she also makes us realize that we have the power to speak up and create amazing things about what we believe in. She just proves even further the fact that feminism isn't a bad word like some say it is, it it about choosing to treat everyone, including all types of genders, with love and respect.
So thank you, Joanna Thangiah for being an awesome feminist artist!
- Reign Gonzales