GLOBAL GALS: Cheryl Braganza

Today we'd like to spotlight I.M.O.W. community member Cheryl Braganza, whose Economica submission, "The Harvest," portrays women gathering apples through the vivid, striking hues of Cheryl's paint brush.

How did you begin painting?

I never realized I had any drawing talent until I was about 10. A Belgian nun who was teaching me physiology at a convent in Lahore, Pakistan noticed how well I drew body parts! A paint-by-numbers set followed. Eventually, a personal meeting with F.N. Souza, a well-known Indian artist in London in the '60s, gave me that extra push. I have never looked back; I had found my calling.

And how did you become involved in human rights?

Part of it must be genetic, as my parents always worked with missionaries in India and Pakistan who helped the poor. A chance meeting on a street in downtown Montreal with a woman from the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan was the spark. She was distributing pamphlets to passers-by on the street--she was a white woman, had never been to Afghanistan and when I asked "Why are you doing this?" She looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Why not?"

That was enough for me to get involved. I offered 12 paintings for their 2008 calendar that was sold with all the proceeds going to women teachers in Afghanistan. Now I am on the board of the Montreal Council of Women, a body of 30,000 women which is the voice for women in our city and has the tools to improve the lives of women.

Who do you hope to reach out to by publishing your paintings on the I.M.O.W. site?

You have a global reach that I don't. It is important for me to connect with like-minded individuals who are committed to social change. My paintings tell a story and are meant to create an impact. Through your site, I can get feedback from others which is paramount for an artist.
How do you hope to create social change for women?

Women recognize themselves or part of themselves in many of my works. They see struggle and they see hope. I believe my paintings light up dark corners of their worlds. They celebrate, they heal and they can renew. Through my art, I am able to access other women's sufferings and help alleviate their pain. I know women who have cried openly when they connect with my work because it reminds them of something in their own lives. It's a powerful connection that creates dialogue and understanding. They feel inspired enough to change their lives. When we provoke change like this, we take on the responsibility to make this a better world.

Who or what inspires you?

The everyday and the ordinary lives of women, their joys and their heartaches, their courage and their weaknesses, their exuberance and their struggles.

What issues and activities are you passionate about?

People, painting, social justice, equality for women and men, writing, public speaking to inspire, playing jazz piano, and thought-provoking books and films.