10and5 sat with Sian Amber Fletcher, a young South African illustrator who focuses on body positivity, lifting self-esteem and creating a world that celebrates the variety of lumps and bumps we have. Sian answers five questions:
Your illustrations embrace body-positive attitudes and feeling liberated in the imperfection of your skin. What influenced you to speak-up through your illustrations?
When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with anorexia and suffered from it for many years. It’s something I never truly healed from so the first illustration I did encompass this was a self-portrait of my own body with all the stretch marks, lumps, and bumps. I looked at it and thought ‘hey that looks really lovely, why don’t I see myself that way when I look in the mirror?’ And it made me realize that creating illustrations that don’t hide the imperfections but instead celebrate them was my own little way of healing.
Name a few people (artists or activists) who inspire you, and tell us why.
Oh my goodness, this list is so long as I’m inspired by all artists and activists. I think anyone working passionately to help change the world is someone to admire. A few artists & activists I love and look up to are Tracy Emin for her brutal honesty, Yayoi Kusama for her honesty around mental health, Florence Given for her undying confidence, Munroe Bergdof for her knowledge and courage to fight for her community and teach us, Frances Cannon for her simple but powerful illustrations as well as Aaron Philip for her being unapologetically herself.
There has been such an overwhelmingly positive response to your illustrations, but how do you manage criticism about your work from the haters?
I’m very sensitive, so I never used to handle criticism well which is probably why I get this heart in my bum feeling every time I want to post a new illustration. There was an illustration I made called ‘It’s a period, get over it’. A larger platform reposted it and immediately all the haters swarmed in with horrendous and ridiculous comments. At first, I was hurt and angry, but then I realised that they’re all sitting behind a screen and most of them were cis boys and had no knowledge of what a period is anyway (which is why education is so important!). It’s so easy to say hurtful and harmful things when you’re hiding because you know there are no repercussions. But getting the message out there and helping people learn and unlearn is so much more important than some silly little hater with a car as their profile picture.
Which, would you say, was your most significant/favorite artwork to create and why?
I would say the most significant artwork I created was the first one of my lovely lumpy bumpy body because it set me off on this journey of learning to love myself whilst doing something I’m so passionate about. It gave me the confidence to start an Instagram page and helped other people start their own pages too. My favourite artwork that I had the most fun creating is a self-portrait of me pulling a tampon out my bag not giving a fuck cause the colours are fab and I’m done with period shaming.
The self-love movement is so important: you could say it’s a backbone for a mindset to a healthy life. How do you practice self-love and what tips would you give to help others a similar journey?
Self-love is something I’m still learning more and more each day. It’s been an uphill battle considering my body image because we are living in a world where womxn are valued for their prettiness and policed for their bodies. I’m learning to love who I am, imperfections and all. And something I’ve learned is that I am the most important person in my life. If I’m not helping myself then how can I help anyone else? And loving myself is this: it’s more than loving my appearance and body, it’s taking care of myself and being kind to myself. It’s knowing I can say no. It’s knowing I deserve better. It’s appreciating the little things I do that make me, me.
So some tips: don’t be afraid to put yourself first. You are the most important person in your life! Appreciate the little things you do and stop worrying about what other people think. There will always be people who will judge you no matter what you, do you might as well do what you want.
Written by Grace Crooks.