Born and raised in France from a Vietnamese-Chinese father and a Taiwanese mother, figuring out my identity growing up was a long journey. I was never quite sure how to define myself.
To belong to more than one socio-cultural group in terms of culture and ethnicity in France is common and even often linked to the French history of colonisation.
Though despite its multicultural population, the French society does not really have a concept of hyphenated or multicultural identity.
If the concept is more widely accepted and visible in the United States, for instance, it is something controversial in places like France. Why so? Because France treasures universalist equality, a principle which is not inclusive of one's differences. Unlike in America, French society praises universalist principles which means the notion of race itself is taboo - we are by principle all equal and live happily together.
But in reality when you are part of the first, the second or even the third generation of immigrants you know well it is not as idealistic. Your experience of living in a colour-blind society is one of brutal 'otherness'. Too often the multicultural is reminded of his/her difference yet the social expectation is for him/her to blend in and become fully assimilated.
This to me is the origin of a DILEMMA, an impossible choice which is to embrace the 'dominant' cultural identity you were born in at the expense of the cultural identity you were familiar with at home through another language, through food or family. Many multicultural people I have interviewed express their need to RE-CONNECT with their roots, their heritage. They even expressed how embracing their cultural differences and contradictions helped them construct a more complete, serene sense of identity.
Art through illustration is a way for me to attack this subject matter with a kind of lightness. I deliberately picked primary colours to keep a simple and neat style. Unlike the hyphenated identity, it is uncomplicated and even a little funny - it shows the dilemmas of the multicultural which are not really dilemmas but rather witty contradictions. It is an attempt to highlight those little things that make the multicultural special. Instead of trying to erase that edge, he/she has all the reasons to just be proud of it. Through this project of illustrated interviews, I want to give space for plurality, to portray diversity in identity and show the richness of it.
Yes, I want to hear from you.
Here are 3 things I believe every multicultural or hyphenated identity has experienced.
Let's see if you recognise yourself!
When you are multicultural you are constantly code-switching.
You switch languages or better, you mix them up, which sometimes results in this strange linguistic chaos that only you or other multicultural peers can decipher.
You embrace both the local cuisine and the one at home, and chances are the two stand at opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to flavours or even table etiquette.
It is very likely you master the art of blending in a foreign environment. As the 'other' you need to quickly understand the code being used around you, crack it and take ownership of it.
You are comfortable with being a chameleon, you can navigate different environments with completely different codes.