Irène Bujara is the Director of the Equity and Human Rights Offices at Queen’s University. She has studied Sumi-e (Japanese Brush painting) with the late Tomoko Kodama. She considers herself an occasional artist.
The idea for the piece came from the pattern in the tile, which reminded me of a beautiful Japanese landscape depicting rice fields with irrigation paths (water, also being a strong female symbol) making a journey through the fields.
I chose to represent woman making a journey through this landscape by the printed word: the Japanese word, or Kanji, meaning "woman" appears in the field above the water line; the Japanese Kanji for "strength" appears below the water line. While I wanted to connect (visually and through words) the concept for strength with the representation of woman, this also becomes a play on words because the Kanji for man includes the word for strength appearing below the word for field.
Finally, the title of the piece comes from Lady Ise's (c. 875 – c. 938) poem "I have always known." This seemed appropriate for two reasons: the poet is a woman and, just as in the west, few of the voices of women poets have been preserved through the centuries; and the theme of the poem is that of a journey: For a woman to take voice when faced with violence means that she has to gather all the strength she possesses; and we know that surviving violence will always involves a challenging journey but we do not necessarily know when it begins and what our destination will be.
"I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today."