There is a Chinese idiom “to eat bitterness 吃苦.” It means to endure hardship and accept suffering as a part of life. The ability to tolerate and overcome difficulties is seen as a virtue and a badge of honour, and to some it is a fundamental part of the Chinese character. With the spike in anti-Asian racism in 2020 and 2021, Refuse to eat our bitterness, 2021, protests and rejects this age-old attitude. Refuse to accept humiliation and abuse, Karen Tam’s art tells us. Refuse to accept hate. Refuse to be submissive. Spit out the bitterness.
Karen Tam, Refuse to eat our bitterness, 2021
Embroidery on satin, 118.1 x 45.7 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Montreal. Photo credit: Campbell River Art Gallery.