Welcome to Week 13 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! I am recording from my kitchen table today, for a change of scenery. It's a little windy outside, so you may hear the gentle tinkling of the wind chimes right outside my front door throughout this episode. This week features the last PAIR of women: our fire and water twins, Feu and Sui. Their supernatural story about parallel worlds and elemental powers was written by Jessie Jing, with gorgeous illustrations by Marah Ali.
A lot of the Wise Not Withered stories are set in reality, or at least a realistic world. Something really special about Feu and Sui's story is that there are actually two worlds: the living world of Earth, and the parallel spirit world of Etern. Jessie will talk more about this later in the episode.
In terms of plot, the Fire and Water Twins' story was perhaps the most bare-boned idea I had at the beginning. I just knew that I wanted there to be twins that had fire and water powers. That idea sparked from the plethora of natural disasters that have been happening in the United States: raging fires in the west (where I live), and devastating hurricanes in the east. I thought about how it would be great if someone could take all the water from the other side of the country and bring it here to the west coast. I started to imagine two middle-aged women floating high in the sky, bringing all the water over there to over here. And that's really all the thoughts I had about these characters!
Jessie brought such a depth to the twins, coming up with their names and the idea of being cast into parallel worlds. I'm amazed at just how broad Jessie's creative spectrum extends: she is arguably one of the most multi-talented artists on the team so far, not only excelling in writing but also dancing and choreography. I was so happy to hear back from her.
The story of Feu and Sui is definitely fit for a video game: it starts with a narrator named Vide, inviting the reader/player to learn about the twins and help reunite them, to bring balance to the world. Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the story:
"They need to be reunited in order for the world to be in balance once again...
Hello, my name is Vide. I am the answer to all that is unknown, which shall be revealed soon. What we will need to do first, however, is reunite the twins in order for the world to be in balance once again. Will you help me?
I will tell you the story of Feu and Sui, and you can be the judge of whether or not you will help me in this journey of reuniting the twins..."
Jessie and I collaborated on the rest of the story, bringing her ideas of Feu and Sui's past and rooting them into current-timeline scenarios. The ending is purposefully left open-ended, which I will read at the end of the episode.
The illustrator I found for these characters was Marah Ali from Jordan, whom I discovered through Behance. I was really drawn to the realistic details and colors she used for the portraits she had on her page. She was such a joy to work with!
Both of the artists involved in the creation of these characters' story and illustrations got involved in the Podcast this time, so without further ado, here is the illustrator, Marah!
"Hi, my name is Marah Ali. I'm a studio artist and animator from Jordan. The projects that I'm most proud of are probably two animated music videos that I've done for a local band that I'm a huge fan of. My experience with Wise Not Withered was extremely nice. I had so much fun drawing the fire and water twins. The story was extremely creative, extremely beautiful—I was blown away when I first read it. I got so excited. I tried to make the characters as magical and beautiful as they were in the story. I was also happy that I was given enough creative space to work with my own style. Juliana was such a sweetheart.
Illustration by Marah Ali
I also joined Wise Not Withered because the concept of empowering middle-aged women is extremely important, yet we're always saying on TV, how we should empower young women, and children. We don't talk much about empowering middle-aged women, though it's extremely important. I think that most middle-aged women that I know of are superheroes to me. So I would love if my art might empower any of them. Make them more confident, or might put a smile on their faces when they see middle-aged women with super powers.
I also would love to be a storyteller with my art. So telling stories with my own art. So that's one of the reasons that I joined Wise Not Withered. It was a very, very awesome experience."
And here is the writer, Jessie!
"Hi! My name is Jessie, and I am currently living in London. I am Malaysian Chinese, and I am a dancer and writer. I largely within the contemporary dance scene, and currently studying my master's in choreography. So I'm an all-around creative!
I work a lot with writing and text as well, for my dance projects, and vice versa. With writing, I like to work with flow and movement, so both sides of my artist identity informs the other. I'm actually publishing a book, so the launch date is the 28th of February. It's a poetry collection I've written nearly three years back. It's called Manuscripts of the Mind. Publishing with the Ghost and Ribbon, which is an independent publisher. So a little plug there!
It's interesting, with this [story]. One of my biggest influences in narratives and story telling is actually Harry Potter. Even Lord of the Rings, although reading-wise, when I was younger I was much more affinitised with Harry Potter. I loved the magical world that it created. I read a lot of Jacqueline Morrison's books as well, and Roald Dahl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda... These are books that I hold dear in my heart. So I think naturally, when it came to this project... To write about the twins, Feu and Sui, I naturally gravitated toward creating a world. Creating, really opening the imagination, and going really supernatural, with magical abilities.
It's also quite a theme that goes across my projects, where I like to create a narrative, create a different space and world for whoever's reading—or watching, if it's for my dance projects.
So Feu and Sui are twins. They are elemental twins basically, fire and water. The name Feu is French for fire, and Sui is the Romanization of the Cantonese pronunciation of water. I really like to play with language! It talks about them being in... General background is that they're long-lost twins. Not in the sense that they're lost in one single world, but actually parallel worlds. Sui is in a world "Etern", like a supernatural world, and it's parallel to the Earth that we live in. For Feu, she has supernatural abilities that she is kind of aware of but not, but she's much more in the sort of normalcy of Earth. The story jumps off that point.
They're separated from birth. Basically there's a long, deeper story to it. But in the womb, what happened was Feu was the surviving twin, and Sui unfortunately wasn't. But she never truly disappeared, but went into the parallel world of Etern. The story would eventually lead to their meeting, and it would cast the world off balance should their meeting not happen. So yeah, it's quite a dramatic story! (laughs) This is where we start.
Obviously, Feu and Sui individually can... Well more Sui, because Sui is aware of her elemental powers. They can manipulate their elements: Feu is for fire, and Sui is for water. And this is the overarching storyline of the story.
So like I mentioned, I am very into the whole creation of a different world, hence why Etern is introduced. Should this be a longer extended project, Etern would come into play a lot more. My love for creating worlds and narratives really influenced this creation of a different supernatural, elemental world, and the parallelism of the worlds in this universe.
Illustration by Marah Ali
In terms of culture... A theme that happens a lot throughout my projects is that I love to play with the notion of duality. Hence the parallelism of the worlds, in that what we see is never what we really... It's not always the only truth. There are many different truths and also many different existences. I wouldn't pinpoint it to a particular culture, but definitely there's this sort of belief of dual or multiple realities. Maybe it's much more science, in that sense? There are many different influences. But definitely my interest in creating a magical, different world is the biggest influence.
I joined the Wise Not Withered project because I really liked what it stands for. The notion that you know, middle-aged and above, senior-aged women are very under-represented across the board, whether it's commercially or even day-to-day in jobs. There is this culture of casting elders aside, perhaps they are not aesthetically fitting to the demands of the commercial society. I feel that is not true: there is so much that the senior ages can offer. Their wisdom, their power, their strengths are so underrated. This is a big reason as to why I joined. And also because I was raised by my mom, she's a single mother. She obviously will grow older as well. As a younger generation, I hope to carry her legacy as a wise, older woman. So beautiful in her heart, inside and out, and pass that on, really.
I would say to a fellow woman... It's been on my mind always, but especially lately, because I've been working in collaborative projects and we've had lots of chats... To stand strong and be confident for other women, and your fellow artists. And to be proud of them... It's so satisfying. It makes you feel so wholesome, as both a person and an artist. I feel the world can get very competitive at times, and we cannot let this culture of competitiveness make us lose our very innate empathetic and supportive nature.
Thank you for having me! I really enjoyed this experience in Wise Not Withered, really really enjoyed this experience. I hope to you know, see more artists and writers all across disciplines come together for such projects. And thank you Juliana. Such a great initiative. I really hope for the best for this initiative to go further and further in the future. Thank you!"
And here is how the story ends:
"This is where you come back in, friend. Feu has fallen and now is precariously treading on the thin line between the living Earth and Etern. On Earth, one can be alive with land-dwelling beings, and feel the warmth of the sun on human skin, complete with human emotions. In Etern, there is no warmth but that which lies within your spirit. Elemental powers are active and heightened in Etern.
Now, dear friend, two options lie at this fork in the road. What shall Feu and Sui do?
1) Feu blacks out, her lungs filling with water. Sui gently touches her hand, and Feu begins to glow red. Just as the life force returns to Feu’s motionless body, Sui is catapulted out of the water and onto the pier. Her first time out of the water, Sui stays on the ground for a few seconds, crouching down and feeling the sturdy wooden logs of the pier beneath her toes and fingertips. She glances down at the water below, then tilts her head up toward the clouds and the brilliant sun, whose cascading rays nearly bring Sui to tears.
“My sister... Where am I? Is this the place where you have lived all this time? I must find you, and bring you back... To Earth.”
This route would follow Sui on Earth and Feu in Etern, and their adventure in trying to get Feu back onto Earth.
2) Sui catches Feu, and quickly breathes a flurry of bubbles that flutter across Feu’s face, magically clearing the water out and repelling it from her lips and nostrils. Feu opens her eyes, and the two women stare at each other. Without a word, they embrace, their elemental hair burning and flowing together in an intricate dance. They separate and look at one another once more. Feu marvels at her sister’s electric blue hair, slivers of silver shining like the moonlight and stars. Sui admires her sister’s fiery smoke and ember red and grey hair, dancing like flames even though they are underwater.
This route would follow Feu and Sui both in Etern, and their adventure in trying to get both of them back onto Earth.
The choice is yours, dear friend. Go with your gut feeling, and choose the path that speaks to you."
Stay tuned for more Wise Not Withered Character Showcases, releasing nearly every Sunday, sometimes Monday, until mid-2020!