Indigo and White
My grandfather was an activist in both The Republic of China and the early People’s Republic of China. He was arrested twice and had to change his name due to safety concerns. For his new identity my grandfather chose the name “Qin”, which means Indigo. My grandfather’s younger brother, who went through the same trauma, became “Bai”, which means white.
“Indigo and white” is a phrase in classical Chinese creative writing that is used to mean clear, open-minded and transparent. These names were a reflection of my grandfather’s core values--clear-mindedness, openness, honesty and transparency.
My full name is Lin Jie Mei 林介眉, Lin 林 is my family name. Jie 介 is my generation character, as well as a symbol of the first feminist move of my life; girls are usually not given generation characters as women are expected to marry and become members of other families. However, I was given a generational character, because my grandfather believed in gender equality.
All my artworks are implicitly or explicitly feminist. They create conversations, identify issues and critique social injustice. That my grandfather fought against thousands of years of tradition in order to name his youngest granddaughter was very encouraging and surreal in the same time. However, it is also troubling that he was the one in this position of power in order to provide this feminist gesture--rather than my mother or grandmother who could only defer to his judgement. This begs the question: can my grandfather be a feminist or is that a label reserved for women?
Since the moment I was given my own generational character, as a woman, artist, immigrant and minority, there have been many moments I felt deeply connected with my grandfather, his brother and their decision. Somehow, we all live through lives to lives to give each other new identities for hiding, while reminding each other that we still live with open minds, honesty and transparency.
There is nothing to hide.