“As a woman we never love our body for what it is.”
I’m sitting in the home of a lovely South African woman, in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, and I couldn’t agree more with what she’s talking about.
Sian Amber Fletcher.
That’s the super talented South African woman I’m speaking with. She’s been living in Hanoi for more than a year, teaching English. We’ve bumped into each other a few times within that year. At one point working in the same language centre, and all other times, just out with friends having a great time.
But today I’m talking to her about something very personal and much closer to home.
I recently saw a post of Sian’s on Facebook and I was immediately intrigued.
It was this post.
Two women. Two naked women; one white and the other black.
In the last few months I’ve become obsessed with self love, female empowerment and just all round, girls supporting girls.
These powerful images struck me and I just had to meet up with Sian to talk about them and see more of her work!
And her work is incredible.
Sian’s artwork is essentially about women learning to love their bodies. She doesn’t air brush away, or minimize the lumps, bumps, hairs or freckles as we so often see all over the internet, across social media and in glossy magazines. But instead Sian highlights these, and appreciates how beautiful all those odd bits and bobs can be.
Through her works of art Sian wants to encourage other women to like their own bodies more. To appreciate them and forget about all those ideals of what the perfect body should look like.
“You have what you have and instead of wasting your whole life trying to change it, criticizing it, or waking up every day thinking “Oh I don’t look good today” just try and look at the good parts of your body.
Accept what there is and accept that’s what you have… You don’t have to have this perfect body, for it to be a good body. Even things like freckles on your body, look at them! They’re cute and they’re nice, enjoy them!”
I ask Sian about how she began drawing. She tells me that she’s always loved drawing. And straight away I can tell thats clear because she speaks from the heart so passionately.
“I’ve always loved drawing, I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’ve always wanted to illustrate things and I never really knew what I liked illustrating so I would start illustrating faces. And then, only doing faces. Until I realized, let me just think of something I’ve gone through and something that’s really true to me.”
So she did just that. It took her back to her teenage years. The days where she struggled with body image. Something that the majority of us can all relate to.
She says, “When I was younger I went through anorexia. From when I was 16 until I was 18. It was very, very bad.”
Sian explains just how severe it was, adding “I went to hospital for it”.
But she’s using her personal experience and struggle with body image for the better. She tells me, “I’ve gone through this experience. I’ve always had struggles with how I look and how I feel. I know that so many other people also have those struggles. As a woman we never love our body for what it is. And that means so much to me so i decided, why not put what I love doing and something that means so much to me, together.”
So she did. Sian put pen to paper, began sketching away, and soon her series of naked female bodies took on a whole life of their own.
And quite the work of art it is too. Each drawing encapsulates a story of its own that is pretty much relatable to women all over the world.
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SAY NO TO SLUT-SHAMING!!! ⚡️⚡️If you’re in a relationship where someone calls you a slut or a whore for things they deem acceptable for themselves to do but not you, get the hell rid of him! You deserve better! You are a queen and no one can tell you otherwise! . . . . . #womenwithpencils #womenofillustration #femaleart #femaleillustrator #womenempowerment #womanillustration #pen #feminist #girlssupportgirls #slutshaming #saynotoslutshaming #femme #artistsoninstagram #art #illustrationstyle #saynotosexism #girlcollection
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How to get an hour glass figure: Climb into a vase. Realise how silly you are and that your body don’t needa be a certain shape! . . . . . #bodylove #redheadillustration #art #redheadgirl #selfcare #femaleillustrator #artistsoninstagram #loveyourbody #loveyourbodyshape #pinkillustration #allbodyshapesarebeautiful #femaleart #feminist #bodyillustration #girlssupportgirls #girlcollection #girlpearlcollective #womenwithpencils #womenofillustration #womenempowerment #womanillustration #womanillustration #brutsubmission
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Dear Tummy, don’t listen to that bitch, Society. I still love ya! I’m sorry for always hiding you and being ashamed of you because I’ve been conditioned to believe that if you’re not flat then you’re not good enough. Thank you for telling me when I’m hungry, being soft, being cuddly, being warm, being a home for my food, being a home for my future children. Thank you Tummy, I love you ❤️ . . . . . . . #selfloveclub #adobeillustration #pen #loveyourself #redheadgirl #redheadillustration #women #womenempowerment #bodylove #bodypositive #selflove #selfcare #womenwithpencils #womanillustration #artistsoninstagram #feminist #femaleart #femaleillustrator #femme #girlssupportgirls #girlpearlcollective #tummylove #thefeministvibe #gurlstalk #illustratorsofinstagram #illustratorsoninstagram #womenofillustration #brutsubmission
At the moment all of Sian’s artwork is for herself. But she’s recently began to share her bold creations and powerful messages with the world, on social media.
But initially getting her work out there was scary. Sian tells me, posting a picture of one of her artworks online for the first time was a nerve-wracking experience.
“The first picture I ever posted of this kind of series, was kind of like me… It wasn’t really me, but it’s a naked body with red hair. Anyone would assume, ok thats you. [because of the red hair] And for me, my body is something I’ve always hidden. It’s not something I show off…”
As I sit there listening to Sian, looking at the drawing she’s talking about, all I can feel is a sense of bravery and respect. What Sian did was essentially put out into the world, a naked drawing of a person many people would assume is her. She put yourself out there, into the big scary online world, not knowing what sort of response she would receive. I for one wouldn’t be babe enough to do it, and I don’t know many people who would do either.
But the feedback she received was incredible. In fact she tells me, “The response I got was unexpected. People were only giving me good comments. There were no bad comments… and then after that I was kind of like, Ok wait it’s Ok. People are not as horrible as they come across.”
Right now all of Sian’s work is for her personally, but if you’re in Hanoi this week you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of her work as it goes on display at the ‘BODY Collective’ event which runs from Friday 13th to Tuesday the 31st of July. You can check out the event here.
The art collective will showcase work created by various artists from different parts of the world. Each artist offers their own unique perspective through different styles and mediums.
Before I leave Sian tells me being an artist has always been something that she’s wanted to do. If she hadn’t inspired me enough already, she was about to do that one last time. She tells me “Once you find something that you love doing, just keep doing it. Sometimes people get self conscious, but if you love it, it’s your own work and you’ve put your heart into it then keep doing it.”
On that note, I’m going to leave you with these simply beautiful images.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these ill do the rest of the talking.
To Sian, thank you for sharing your story with me and the rest of the world. You’re an incredible strong young woman and I hope you continue spreading your powerful messages to empower others.
Follow Sian and see more of her work on Instagram: @sianamber_art