Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi
(Suriname, b. 1952)
Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi was born in Paramaribo, and grew up in a Chinese household. Her father was a Chinese businessman. She received a Catholic education at local elementary and secondary schools, and began training to be a teacher at the Advanced Teachers Training Institute in Paramaribo in 1972. After four years at the Institute, she followed a longtime ambition and migrated to the Netherlands, where she attended the Academy in Tilburg, earning a visual arts and education degree in 1979.
It was not until 1988 that Tjon Pian Gi, after years of teaching, began to devote herself fully to being an artist. Her artistic career and output can be seen as an exploration of three main themes. The first of these is the nature of firestone (flint), and the second is womanhood, and her own struggles—as a professional, a mother, and a wife—to balance her career and family within a culture rife with biases about the role of women in society. In her own words, her work explores the “existing prejudices and barriers withholding talented women from becoming professional artists.” The third subject of her work is Suriname’s multicultural society; here, Tjon Pian Gi has created a compelling artistic vision of Suriname as a true melting pot of Creoles, Chinese, Hindustani, Javanese, and Dutch people. She has also examined, in her art, her own hybrid upbringing within a Chinese family in a Dutch colony in the Caribbean.
Throughout her career, Tjon Pian Gi has focused mainly on painting and drawing; but, beginning in 2005, she has expanded her repertoire to encompass video and filmmaking as well. She is also an avid writer, whose books include The Strength of Women (2009) and Short Stories (2012). She has exhibited at Readytex Art Gallery, and in 2012 had a residence at Vermont Studio Center, USA. In 2013 Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gi won the Bridget Jones Award.