Archives for posts with tag: identity

It’s 2017!
It is at this time of the year many people reflect on the events of the previous year, whilst also looking towards to the future.

As a female, as a British East Asian what does 2017 hold in store? Well, for one thing, a new job that was totally unexpected, but most very welcome. I’m now in rehearsals at The RSC for Snow In Midsummer. What a joy this is and I realise I am so incredibly lucky to be included in this company which is comprised of all British East Asian actors!

But with everything that is going on across the globe and the shift in, not just national, but international politics. Where do I stand?  Where do I place myself in a new Britain that is now seemingly blindly shuffling its way towards, well towards what, we don’t quite know yet, do we? America a country that I have always loved, will this country now allow me to enter freely?
Central Europe is in the grip of its own self, doubt, grappling with the ideal, but having to face some of the grim realities, that free unfettered movement can enable other unwanted movement and actions.

And Britain, 
“…this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

Shakespeare Richard II, Act 2

But the UK has shown itself to be less than a paradise and not as blessed, a refuge, as perhaps was once thought. Brexit has scratched the country’s surface and our collective mindset. What it has uncovered is the dark, unsavory and toxic ideals of the extremism. The right-wing have sentiments, it appears have never really left us. 
Britain is not alone in this “discovery.” 

I feel fearful. Not of being dragged from my bed in the dead of night, but I am fearful that the spread of this below the line extreme right consciousness will inveigle itself once more into our institutions and national structures. I hope that I am just being paranoid and overly anxious. I am not a politician or an academic. I’m an actor, a writer, filmmaker and at times when needs be, a bit mouthy about issues that I am passionate about. 
As a person of colour, as a disenfranchised, culturally, dislocated and isolated person, I am finding it more and more difficult to see how I fit into Britain.
The social and cultural progressions that have been made since the late 50s early 60s when I first landed in this country, as Hong Kong Chinese foundling, have been truly remarkable. The diversity and variety that can be seen, heard and experienced in most major cities and towns across the land, is the jewel in Britain’s crown.

 So why do I still feel excluded from British society?
Quite simply because I seldom see myself represented in my own culture – British culture.
As a professional artist, it is rare that I even get the chance to be considered to represent my own ethnicity, let alone see the Britain that I grew up in, recreated on TV, film or in the theatre.

 In April 2013, I presented on the unrealistic artistic mirrors that I was faced with in the media as I grew up during the 60s. It was part of IN CONVERSATION – A Snapshot of Chinese Cinema Today.

More Light 2009

More Light Arcola Theatre 2009

Whilst there have been great strides forwards for British East Asians (though to be fair we lag far behind colleagues from other British minority ethnic groups). 

We still have not been able to break through the entrenched, almost subliminally embedded Victorian perspective of what an East Asian should be. In spite of several high-profile productions, since 2013, that have had a majority or completely all British East Asians casts.

 On the small and big screens in the UK, British East Asians are hardly ever to be seen. 
Now when I say British East Asian, what I mean is roles and story lines that don’t cast East Asians as the outsiders, the immigrants, speaking English with a heavy accent. Roles that see East Asians as British. The girls next door, the cabbie, the Doctor or the local shop owner. 

We are far from being there. Which brings me to the casting controversy that The Print Room, an independent (i.e. privately funded) fringe theatre in West London. The Print Room finds itself in a racist casting controversy. And their response to, Yellowface casting, has been found seriously wanting.  In 2017, a production is being performed using Yellowface.

 So for those that may have stumbled across this blog, maybe wondering what on earth I am on about. Why the hell am I complaining about not being included, I should be grateful that I live where I do. Yes, I am lucky that I live where I do. 
But that’s part of the “problem” isn’t. Here we are in the 21st Century and in Britain, a group of British citizens have been edited out of British society and culture. To the point that we are not even able to participate in the re-telling of our own story (fictional or factual).

We are neither British nor in some cases East Asian. Relegated to cultural servitude. As coat hangers upon which others, many of whom see themselves as the innovators and arbiters of art; and are, by and large, the dominant group in society (politially, culturlaly, financially and socially). They dangle and exhibit their artistry, from our history and cultural lineage, exploiting us, but in the same breath, deny us access and any hope of participating in our own culture.

Why am I complaining? Didn’t I open this blog stating that I’m now in rehearsals with an all East Asian cast a the RSC? Yes, I did and yes it is fantastic beyond belief. AND it is A FIRST (I hope the first of many). But this is a FIRST, and it is 2017!
I am more used to the following –
Whether it is ridiculous fancy dress costumes,

img_0410 img_0411
or stereotypical TV/Film roles being portrayed by white actors

img_0412

Janette Tough as Japanese fashion designer Huki  Mukin in the Ab Fab movie

Take a moment and think.

Would you be happy constantly being depicted, in the media and on stage as

img_0413

or

img_0414

No matter what the drama 

add to this the representation of these White British stereotypes are only portrayed by Black or Asian actors never, or seldom, a white actor, wouldn’t you begin to question your place in British society?
 Never seeing a protagonist in any drama portrayed as a white person. White people stripped down to a basic racial and cultural cliche.
Not once, twice but every single time you turn on your TV or go to the cinema, rent a DVD, stream a new TV drama, or listen to a radio play?  

Wouldn’t you begin to feel ever so slightly irked?  Imagine how you might feel after thirty or forty years of this, welcome to my world.

So 2017 has started on the one hand with a huge positive but at the same time with a huge retrograde negative. I hope that there will be more positives and that Britain will truly embrace its own diversity and the benefits that equality and inclusion can bring.

Wishing you all health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.

Advertisements

feature-ultimate-outsider2_520
Next month I’m scheduled to give my third “lecture” on what it means to be a transracial adoptee

I’ve been good I’ve finished drafting my piece even though there are three-four weeks to go before I have to deliver my “lecture”. But it’s gotten me to thinking…

When I was a kid the social mirrors I had to reflect back to me, my identity, my likeness were non existent. Because people like me, as far as the media were concerned didn’t exist. What was beamed back to me was a grotesque and crude facsimile of what society then (and in some respects today) think that an East Asian should be.

The outsider, the heavily accented foreigner, light on mental capacity, huddled over woks, or ushering in customers into a restaurant. Non of this meant anything to me. I was neither heavily accented (well not with an East Asian accent), my adoptive parents were not in the catering business and when I was a child for a while I considered myself the same as everyone else I was British, so I thought.
I’m an adult now and fifty odd years had passed by. I call this country my home. It’s the country that I was brought up in. It’s the country that I was educated in, I know it’s culture, it’s language and I live here. Yet even in the 21st century in spite of all of the “diversity” and multicultural labels why do I still feel like an outsider?

 

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–May 17, 2013.  How does art help tell the story of mixed race Asian Americans? Exhibit curator Laura Kina, associate professor of art, media and design at DePaul University, describes how this show helps to visualize the complexities of mixed-heritage Asian American identities.

 

Source: depaul.edu

Interview with a HK Adoptee

Saturday Live Radio 4 interview with HK adoptee –

“The story of a woman who was abandoned in Hong Kong as a baby in the 1960’s and sent to the UK for adoption” Radio 4

Since coming out as an adult adoptee, posting about the making of my independent documentary, performing in my one woman stage play and writing about my personal views on transracial adoption; apart from being trolled and griefed, I have been literally inundated by requests to become a guest writer on this blog or that website.
Initially I was flattered, until I started to look into the requests in more depth. Most of the organisations, and I use the term “organisation” very loosely, are groups, whether for adoptees or adopters, that are what I call, “born again”.

Evangelical in their pro adoption at any cost and more often than not deeply religious. Anyone who has the temerity to question their views on adoption, are one step down from being the devil incarnate. It would also seem to be true that none of these groups actually read or know how to carry out basic research on the people that they approach to guest write.

Tongue in cheek aside, there is a very serious and disturbing aspect to the above. It’s the amount of groups, organisation, NGO’s and not for profits that are out there. They see and promote adoption as if it is a right. That somehow families and parents from the west are superior to those from third world and the Far East. That by being adopted by a western family is an act of salvation. Fore sure financially and possession wise yes I suspect that being in the west, being adopted by a reasonably affluent family the adoptee may well be “better off”. They will probably want for nothing. They will not know what it means to be truly starved. They will be educated and they will be clothed. That’s the shell, the husk taken care of. But what of the being inside? What becomes of them? Closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears or burying your entire head in the sand will not miraculously dissipate the inevitable. We all know want to know where we came from (and I’m not talking birds and bees) we all want to be able to trace in some shape or form our lineage. We want to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and be able to place the reflection that we see alongside all the other faces in our immediate family and the society that surrounds us. The transracially adopted child with its distinctive facial features or darker skin tones and uncharacteristic non Euro-centric hair cannot do this. How then does this child for all it’s material wealth cope with a deeper and intrinsic ticking time bomb? Who will be there to pick up the emotional pieces? How many more emotionally scared, traumatised or damaged adults are in the making?
Not every transracial adoption goes sour but not every transracial adoption has the fairy tale ending of, and they all lived happily ever after. In a day and age when the world comes to you via fiber-optic cables. I worry. We have not as yet fully acknowledged past generations of adoptees, let alone the new ones in the making. Yet it would seem the insatiable appetite to adopt transracially goes on apace and the grief, the loss and the emotionally scarring continues