Sarah Saaristo Printmaking Thesis Spring 2019
2500 years ago, the Buddha granted his son the heritage of becoming a novice. In Myanmar, both boys and girls follow in this tradition. The purpose of this ceremony is to evoke the life of Buddha and to give the child an opportunity to experience monastic life and initiate them in the knowledge and teachings of the Buddha. Growing up in the US, I never got to experience this. In my thesis, I explored my multicultural identity by materializing the different aspects of the traditional Burmese coming of age ceremony in order to answer the questions, What does it mean to have a multicultural identity? and how does connecting with my mom and recreating traditional crafts navigate the space between my American identity and Burmese culture?
The blouse, longyi, headdress, and prayer sash that I made combine the styles of my diverse ethnic background. In 2011 when I was 14, my Mom gifted me my first longyi because she thought it was time for me to be introduced to her culture and take my place among her people. I didn’t realize this at the time, but Myanmar was experiencing sweeping political, economic, and social reforms. It has opened up to the world, and she wanted me to be a part of that.
I occupy an in between space, both physical and emotional. I cannot bring these things any closer, but my role as an artist and a human being is to find the middle way by building a bridge between my identity and culture by creating art.
I see my thesis, my creation of the dress of a princess and the research process, collaborating with my mom and learning about the different cultures and traditions that make me who I am as an artist and a woman, as my own coming of age.