‘Walk With Me’ is a four-part video series highlighting lesser heard voices from Amsterdam’s creative community in partnership with Dr. Martens Presents.
We talk to four emerging Amsterdam-based creatives in a series that empowers perspectives on cultural inclusivity, community building and self-love.
This episode features Sioejeng Tsao (she/her), Illustrator and Educational Activist.
Sioejeng uses her art to educate, inform and inspire people about her Asian heritage and uses it as a form of activism against discrimination. “You have to stand in your own power and say this is my spot and I earned it to be here.”
Her shift to become an illustrator came about three years ago after working as a Graphic Designer in corporate spaces.
“I always felt in the Chinese culture being into arts and stuff wasn’t something that paid off and wouldn’t give you status everyone wants you to have,” Sioejeng explains.
“After a few years working at agencies and corporate businesses I found I wasn’t happy at all. I started drawing and putting things online and somebody asked ‘do you actually sell these’. That’s when I realised ‘oh, you can actually sell these!’”
Developing a passion she’d had for years came with its own journey, unpeeling layers of internalised beauty standards that didn’t reflect Sioejeng personally.
“The biggest part I found out was that I was always drawing women in a certain way,” she says. “They’d always have white skin, be a size 32, have big boobs, a big butt. Eventually I started thinking ‘hey, this is kind of weird, I don’t even know how to portray myself as a Chinese woman. Black women I also didn’t know how to draw. It was so confronting. A lot of people at art school are going through this process of asking what beauty is – I had to educate myself on how to do this. I started drawing bigger sizes and ethnicities. That was the biggest confrontation I had.
“As an artist or illustrator, I have a responsibility to bring messages across. It’s really therapeutic for myself. When I started, I used dark colours because I had so much more to process at that time. It was a process to heal myself.”
Where does Sioe see herself in ten years?
“I really want to have an exhibition in China because I think it would be so great to be acknowledged by my own people.
“I will continue what I’m doing and eventually target a lot of Asian women as well. I want to make them feel more empowered by their sexuality, that they can come forward because Asian women are always put on as being innocent and not speaking up about things a lot so I want to make sure they feel empowered.”