Where are you from? Who are you?

These questions may not be difficult to answer for people who grew up in one place orwhose parents are the same race or share the same culture. But Since 2015, I haveencountered a few select friends whose physical appearances show the complexity behindthis question. For them, it is not easy to define nationality and identity or a sense ofbelonging. “Mixian” is a word I coined to describe the new generation of mixed-raceyouth who have grown up with different ethnic backgrounds.

Their ambiguous self-identifications inspire my project’s concept.
One such individual said to me, “I’ve always struggled with the question of ‘Where areyou from?’. It is a rather tricky topic to satisfy, with my mother being from Thailand andmy father from Holland. They met and married in Hong Kong and gave birth to mehere. Although we are a very close family, each of us, on paper, identifies with a differentnationality. My father is a rebellious and carefree man; whereas, my mom is diligent andconservative. I think I have my father’s rebellious streak, but I always do what my motherasks of me! When I go back to Holland, people see me as a foreigner. In Thailand, thelocals categorize me as an unknown. Gradually, I came to terms with the fact that Iwould always be an outsider to the locals of my “hometowns.” Where I am actually fromwill forever be a question - a mystery waiting to be solved.”

Growing up with multicultural backgrounds, but living with the uncertainty ofbelonging due to their physical appearances and family heritages, these people will alwaysbe considered outsiders and foreigners, no matter whom they think they are. This storyresonated with me.

My personal story has its own complications, have grown up with more than threedifferent cultural backgrounds, I easily identify with this lack of belonging. I was raised ina remote village in Chaozhou, China, and migrated with my family to Hong Kong at theage of sixteen. Whenever approached with the question of “Where are you from?” I findmyself feeling confused about my cultural identity. Am I from Hong Kong or China?Instead of just relying on my passport for the answer, I have enjoyed telling friendsaround the world that I am from Hong Kong, that is, until there’s a reason to sharemore, like with other Mixians. Through asking pointed questions and mirroring withthese individuals, I have the chance to see identity issues from my perspective. I believethat identity is a summation of growing backgrounds, living experiences, and self-discovery, rather than rigid traditions and fixed rituals of a person’s birth country. Whomwe choose to surround ourselves with also shapes our upbringing and ethical values.

I have had the idea of curating this project, “The Mixian,” since the end of 2015.However, in the past few years, due to the intensive workloads from commercialphotography requests, I haven’t had time to invite them for the interviews, so I have beenspending time on setting the correct directions for my research study.

Now (beginning six months ago), I started to inviting The Mixian to my studio for theinterviews, and the portrait shoots also, I got to discover even more from their personal experiences. From our conversations, I found out these people who grow up with mixedrace and multicultural backgrounds tend to have a broader range of understanding anddifferent kinds of values and morals. They tend to show many diverse talents and speakdifferent languages. And through the struggle of identity development, they grow a newconcept of identity, which is often that of a global citizen. Many people withmulticultural upbringings do not consider themselves belonging to a particular countryor specific place, but mentally free living on earth.

This Mixian project is a study combining anthropology, sociology, and biology from thehistory of mixed-race individuals. I want to study how people see one person’s identitybased on their color and other attributes. 

why " Mixian " 

I think the people who are born with mixed race and grown up with multicultural background are a new kind of human, inspired by the " ian " suffix, such as " Brazilian / Norwegian / Italian / Indonesian  etc   

Aim of the project

For “ The Mixian ” project, I aim to capture the beauty of complexities and ambiguities, from the outside and in and likewise, inside-out.

What will we do ?

This project will be documented by two medium, a short video of your interview and a few studio portrait shots.  The dates of the shootings are flexible due to this is a long term project. Photos will be taken in studio at Kwai Hing. The interview video can be taken at studio or at any other locations that related to you.  B-roll videos will be taken various locations according to the contents from your interview. 

Questions may ask

1:  Share about your background

2:  What moments did you first realise you were different to others ?

3:  As a mixed cultural grow up adult, how do you think your life is compared to other      people ? By physical, by mental ?

4:  How do your parents influence you ? Which side you tend to be more like ?

5:  Is it an advantage or a problem by having the identity as a mixed race person.

6:  How do you define your self-identity ? or nationality ?

7:  How do you find your “ sense of belongings “ by the place, by the people or by the cultural ?

8:  Which side of the culture influece you more ? ( East or West ? )

9:  Do you consider yourself as a global citizen ?

10:  Do you think the multicultrual backgroup influenced your career decisions ?

11:  Do you think the mixed race environment helps with your creativety / diversity ?

11:  How do you related yourself with Hong Kong ?

12:  Are you good at chopsticks or cutlery ?

Use of the content 

The content of the project ( photos and videos ) will be shared to different media platforms as personal work exhibition/presentation, and it will be as my research project for my Master of Fine Arts study from 2020 -2022. 

Photo Sample

Sample interview in text form 

Emily R.

Can you share us more about your background?

My Grandfather is a Teochew people; He walked to Hong Kong from Teochew. Then he worked as “coolie”

by raising pigs in a farm. My mom was born in Hong Kong, she was the only child who didn’t work in the

field and she worked as a staff in jailhouse. My father came from a military family in Wales, England. He

tried many different types of jobs, such as teacher, reporter etc. He can always find his gravy train, for example

being an editor who wrote evaluations after trying the spa services provided by 5-star hotels; he also tried

to be a guest actor, one time he got replaced because he accidentally hit Chow Yun-Fat’s face (he laughed)…

I have no idea why he could always find an interesting job; I think his charming personality brings him luck.

My parents met in a sports competition in Hong Kong, then they became a couple and get married eventually…

I am the only child in the family; we lived in the dormitory of Tai Lam Correctional Institution

when I was small. My Chinese was rather good when I was 3 or 4 years old, but after attending international

school, I became too lazy to learn Chinese. Therefore, I can only listen and speak Cantonese and read and

write simple Chinese characters. After graduated from high school, I chose to take a gap year and became

a kindergarten teacher; but the 1-year gap year accidentally becomes 7-year gap year (laugh)… I also thought

of going to college and my parents helped me to en-roll in The Open University of Hong Kong, major in English,

however, those courses were too easy for me! My English is even better than the lecturer… I was very

unhappy and my hairs started to fall. Although people told me that you have to endure in order to get the

thing you want, but I really can’t take it, so I gave up. Now I am happy just to teach English in the Kindergarten.

As a half-breed, how different do you think your life is compared to other people?

I think I can compare it externally and internally. For the external part, I used to play with classmates who

speak English before high school, I was more prone to western culture; but after graduation, they all flew

away. So I started to play with local friends. Now I like to play with people in bands, I also like listening to

local independent music. But we have communication problems sometimes, like they don’t know some of

the classic I think everybody should know----I couldn’t imagine that they have never watched “Godfather”!

I don’t understand their corny jokes too. For the internal part, I feel confused from time to time. My mom

is like a traditional Teochew man, she is very serious person and with the quality of hard working Chinese

people. In contrast, my father has a western “let’s have a party! Yeah!” cheerful personality. I wish I could be

free and easy going like my father, but in the end I turned out to be serious like my mother. Sometimes I feel

strong conflicted inner-self.

Is it an advantage or a problem by having the identity of half-breed?

I think it depends on how you perceive your surroundings. If you like traveling and interesting experiences,

being a half-breed is definitely something great. However, if you want to have a sense of belonging, being

a half-breed is not cool at all. I have the feeling of going home every time when I get back to England, but

English people see me as Chinese, and ask me if I want to eat sushi; I also have the feeling of home in Hong

Kong, but people always being too civil to me, I receives better services from people and

policemen never check my ID card too. I don’t feel happy with all these. People being extra nice to Caucasian

make me angryWhen I was applying for a teaching position, they never want to read my CV, but just

want to see if I look “white” in photo. Moreover, even I don’t have a Bachelor Degree; my salary doubles my

colleagues’ salary. Although I am beneficial from the skin deep side, I feel betrayed to myself as a Chinese.

Besides, baffling things happens sometimes, like once, a mother knew that I could speak Cantonese from her

child, she complained the school immediately, blaming why the school didn’t hire a “pure” Caucasian. I also

know that some half-breeds dye their hair into gold and wear light-coloured contact lenses in order to get

better salary. I really don’t agree these.

How would you define your self-identity?

I would say I am a Hong Kong people, remarks “half-English”. I also joined the Umbrella Movement, even

nobody talked to me for several days. I build my own camp and sleep alone, but this movement really inspired

me to pay more attention to local affairs. Besides, I feel regret that I didn’t learn Chinese well, I hope I

can watch Steven Chow’s movie. 

Reference Video

The video will be having the interviews contents and B-roll footages of the contents mentioned in the interview. The Video shooting will need one to two days for shooting. 

Using Format