GMI hosts ‘Mom Portraits’ exhibition in Shanghai

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GlobalMoms Initiative recently held The Mom Portraits Exhibition in Shanghai to celebrate the contributions of mothers to society. The event was held in partnership with Shantao Buy42 and MamaPro and ran from May 8 to 14, finishing on International Mother’s Day.

Ten photographs of moms were exhibited at the event, which was hosted at a branch of Shantao Buy42, a local charity store. And a number of stallholders set up shop outside on the sidewalk to sell their wares to visitors and support the event.

Event organizers selected photos of moms from a diverse set of backgrounds, including women aged in their 30s to 90s, with the choices designed to capture “the emotions of individuals behind the mom’s identity”. Each woman was also interviewed on video for the event.

Jiang Shujie is a mother of two who also oversees Shantao Buy42’s stores in Shanghai. When she heard about GMI, she was keen to help out.

“I interviewed GlobalMoms Initiative at the start of the year and learnt about their MomStory 100 Program. It struck me that maybe not many people knew about it and I thought we could help promote it by launching this presentation,” she said.

“This exhibition is aimed at moms and is also for anyone who wants to come and see moms’ contributions to their families and society. The moms we have chosen for the exhibition can be considered fairly representative of wider society: some live in difficult situations and have had various struggles, while others have led more settled lives.”

Jiang revealed that the event had received a large number of visitors, but said that men who had visited the exhibition had generally had little to say about the pictures and issues raised by the moms’ stories.

As a mother herself, Jiang hoped that the network of 14 stores provided by Shantao Buy42 would help to spread the word about GlobalMoms Initiative.

Some of the moms that featured had hard-hitting stories. One woman is a designer named Hai Ying, who dealt with feelings of guilt following the discovery of a tumor in her child’s eye that later caused blindness. Wang Lv, in her 40s, was also featured. When she was 10, her brother attempted suicide – something that has had a lifelong impact on her.

Yet many stories were also inspiring. The oldest woman featured was Zhou Xiuwen, who is now in her late 90s and describes herself as an “unqualified mother”. Following her retirement, her health began to fail and she was plagued by numerous ailments throughout her body. Deciding to treat herself, she studied traditional Chinese medicine for eight years in order to learn how to manage her symptoms.

One of the oldest moms featured describes herself as an “unqualified mother” (Photo: CDB)

Outside the Shantao Buy42 store was Tang Rong, selling her own brand of coffee with her impressive daughter Helen. Having made considerable efforts to educate her daughter, who suffers from a disability, she also regularly offers support to other parents with disabled children, including by providing funds for activities.

“I’m here to collaborate with Shantao Buy42 because I want to encourage my daughter to make progress and give her the opportunity to grow in confidence by selling our coffee and serving customers on her own,” said Tang.

Another attendee was Chen Shangshang, a mother of two and chair of Shanghai Guangbo Institute of Further Education, a nonprofit which promotes lifelong learning. With the help of Shanghai Women’s Federation she also set up MamaPro, a project and community dedicated to supporting professional women and empower working moms.

“In addition to professionals and entrepreneurs, MamaPro also helps moms that have left the workforce after having children and who have perhaps not worked for several years and they are keen to be reconnected to society and the community. MamaPro helps them make that transition by holding community events and providing a dedicated work space for them,” said Chen.

“I think that the exhibition shows ordinary moms, which makes it easier for people to connect to their stories. The survey of our mama group shows that working moms have lots of challenges, with the top ones being parenting, anxiety – particularly on the issue of education, and their own career development. Many moms suffer from guilt: that they concentrate too much on their jobs at the expense of their children, or that they concentrate too much on their children at the expense of their jobs.”

Chen is keen to encourage mothers to focus more on themselves and to ensure that they rely on other family members and also social support systems to help with childcare.

Any visitor to the event will have been inspired by some of the women’s stories that featured. And perhaps some will even now look at some of the women in their own lives a little differently. While everyone will take away something different from the stories featured, Jiang Shujie is keen to emphasize how moms often don’t have the luxury of simply focusing on their own desires.

“When a mother makes important decisions, she always must consider the whole family, not only herself.”

Some of the moms featured in the exhibition (Photo: CDB)

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