Ceramicist Soe Yu Nwe draws on the folklore and vernacular arts of Myanmar, as well as Buddhist and animistic practices. Working with clay allows her to express her feelings of disconnection when away from home, and to explore elements of her culture and heritage.
‘Naga Maedaw serpent’ 2018
In her works, the female body is often fragmented and transformed into visceral, semi-botanical sculptures, resembling vessels formed from tangled thorn bushes, overgrown with weeds and flowers. The serpent is significant personally and symbolically, representing transformation and sexuality. In Myanmar, the goddess of serpent dragons is Naga Mae-Daw, often venerated in the country’s numerous pagoda temples. Said to be of pre-Buddhist origin, she rules over magical spirits known as Nagas, transformative snake-like beings that live in rivers, lakes, oceans and in the bottom of wells.
Painted wooden idols representing gods, goddesses and mythical beings; pagoda temples; marionettes; the heart-shaped leaves of the Bodhi tree; and ‘spirit houses’ – shrines built to placate the spirits of trees, forests and mountains that have been disrupted by human habitation – all inspire her practice.
Video: Soe Yu Nwe discusses her practice & female identity