Sioejeng Tsao

Sioejeng Tsao

by marlies|dekkers

Pirate: Cheng I Sao

Embodied by: Sioejeng Tsao (visual artist & activist)

There was one moment during my transformation into Cheng I Sao that I looked in the mirror and saw my ancestors. It was so intense! Like an out-of-body experience, except I was still very much there. Because I was carried by the love and fighting spirit of all the strong women that came before me.

Growing up without strong cultural role models, I often felt ashamed of my Chinese identity. Why wasn’t I white and tall, with blond hair and blue eyes? Life would be so much better! About 4 years ago, everything changed. I became involved with a community of social activists and started to speak out against racism. In that process, I started to embrace my Chinese ‘otherness’. For example, I stopped apologizing for my ‘difficult’ name. It really isn’t that hard to pronounce, people! Just be open to try.

Posing on the beach, I thought I was being fierce enough, but it wasn’t enough for Marlies. Apparently, it’s quite hard to get rid of the female societal conditioning to always be ‘pretty’. « Access your raw, inner power by screaming! », Marlies told me. All of a sudden, I remembered the martial arts classes of my childhood. I let out this bloodcurdling roar which immediately kickstarted my ‘pirate’ spirit. It was amazing! At one point, Marlies even had to tell me to tone it down a bit, much to both our amusement. Definitely something I’m taking with me from the shoot.

Believe me, becoming a lingerie model wasn’t exactly my life-long ambition. But reading about Cheng I Sao – who happens to come from the same region as my mother! – I felt honored to play a part in telling her amazing story. It’s about time that women, and especially women from marginalized cultures, get their rightful place in history.

Follow Sioejeng on Instagram.

 

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