The image courtesy of the artist
Ajaw belongs to the Akha, an ethnic group who originally lived in small villages in the highland area of mainland southeast Asia and southwest China. Having a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they were escapists who have been resisting the governmental power from the plain, either from the Hans, Thais, or Bamars. The Akha people have been assimilated to varying degrees into five distinct nation-states in the area. Their original belief system is a combination of animism and ancestor worship. Nowadays some have converted to Christianity and Buddhism.
Ajaw was born in Myanmar. The family escaped the political uncertainty when she was young and moved to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Although Ajaw never attends an art school, she belongs to a family of artisans. Her father, who is a sculptor, transmits his knowledge about their people through storytelling and the creation of wooden sculptures. Rather than following into her father’s footsteps, Ajaw aspired to be a painter when she was fifteen years old. She attempts to tell the story of the Akha people, which is already a challenge. Before the Christian missionary arrived in the twentieth century and introduced the Latin script, the Akhas did not have a written language. Their knowledge was conveyed through oral tradition and symbolism. Scattered throughout the highlands, their knowledge is lacking in unity. In this sense, her works are perhaps the most substantial attempt to gather and portray the Akhas’ experience in the form of visual representation.
Busui Ajaw’s works are recognized by her paintings with expressive style with the usage of vivid colors and dramatic texture that her brush technique creates.