An ongoing photo and video series on and for Asian American female identifying creatives, centered on exploring our collective childhoods.
We revisit places that remind us of childhood and home to reflect on our thoughts on diaspora and our past selves.
"My name is Alison. I was born and raised in New York, specifically in Queens, Woodside. My parents are originally from Kathmandu, Nepal. I went to Catholic school in Steinway Queens. Right now I'm studying furniture design at RISD. I was originally going to do sculpture but I thought furniture was the better way to go.
Maybe starting in fourth or fifth grade I started to get kind of angry about my culture. I guess maybe because I wasn’t seeing too much of Tibetan-Americans and I remember trying not to wear the traditional clothing of Nepal and being so angry every single time I was forced to wear it. The anger is definitely from confusion. My parents coming here they tried to Westernize themselves and the effects of that went to me and my brothers. My parents tried to wash it from their identity to conform to the neighborhood and America, they were totally fine with me being Westernized too. I feel like I try treasure my culture more now, I learn about how these things are made and where they come from."
“Hi, I’m Grace Naw, I do a lot of community organizing work with the collective “Yellow Jackets Collective". I personally and professionally do a lot of technical video stuff. I’m from a very small white town called Rutherford, NJ. It’s like a 25 minute bus ride into NYC. During my upbringing, Monday through Friday would be spent in Rutherford, New Jersey. Sometimes Friday night to Sunday would be spent in Flushing, Queens. More exactly, in College Point where my big megachurch was, that I was raised in. So it was in those two kinds of communities, like the white town I’m from and this Korean church in the Flushing area.
There is this quote from this essay, that just tied how I felt about reading through Korean history and trying so hard to understand it
In addition, queer historical narratives critique heterosexist definitions of community and nation which rely on simplistic forms of identity politics. Diasporic queers cannot inscribe themselves onto an imagined or real homeland without radically changing its terms since many forms of nationalism are constructed around assumptions of normative heterosexuality.
Its hard to connect to Korea and Koreanness other than growing up in my home, and eating the food that I did and speaking the few bits of language that I do because Korea itself as a nation, I don’t really know how to read or learn about it."
"Hi my name is Kaya, I'm a 2nd generation mixed Filipina born and raised in Brooklyn. I'm in school for anthropology with a perspective on social work and involve myself with my spoken word and have been beginning to organize on & off campus again.
My ethnicity was always so murky growing up, being a white mixed Filipina puts me at the top of a lot of socio-political hierarchies, my proximity to whiteness allowed/allows me to move through society in a very different way than the rest of my family. Growing up I was never aware of any of this vocabulary though, I just knew I had brown family and white family and I fell somewhere in the middle. I always felt connected through food and family and nationalism, as a young kid I was always super excited to announce that I was Filipina. I would boast to my classmates and revel in extreme happiness when my mother, brother, and I would drive cross country to see our family. I would brag about my big-loud-family and the cool foods and language we spoke. I think its important to note that I never considered myself or my family Asian because my view of “Asia” growing up was a very orientialized. Asian identities were centered around white skinned East Asians, and none of my family looked like that. I was hella confused. Almost like, “what am I?” “what the hell is filipino?”
As I grew up and got more and more politicized, I began doing community activism with a Filipino socialist/democratic organization called Anakbayan. The radical environment and supportive-militant comrades I met helped me really step into my own as a young Filipina. My understanding of the world and myself changed, I realized my pride for this ethnicity is not only about the food or the family but, the resilience that FIlipinx people have. Since ancestral times, the FIlipinx people have endured an immense amount of systemic oppression and colonization, our ancestors have been stripped of almost everything, our parents have been forced to assimilate to a country that does not claim them, fight for them, or work to understand them, our indigenous nations have been going through complete hell, our undocumented populations live in the shadows, our workers exploited, our children suffering from colorists and life altering representations of themselves in the media. FIlipinx & Filipinx Americans have whole narratives that don’t get represented. I really do believe brown asian countries and people (south/south east asia) do not get the representation and undivided attention we deserve.
My identity as biracial woman of color shifted heavily when I began unpacking of the Filipino Existence in the states. My pride for this ethnicity/culture moved from small acts of “nationalism” to a force big force of awareness and militance. I recognize the privilege I have been given because of my mix and utilize so much of it to help my people and other communities of color that get put through these brutal systems of violence and oppression. Of course, not everything is so rigid and my existence is not completely boiled down to political analysis. I still love my family and the foods we cook and the familiarity of the community, but, these discussions and and analysis needs to be happening, within and outside of our community. Especially topics of accountability and allyship. We are a dismembered community but still s community that has and is able to participate in the dismemberment of other communities of color (ex. Anti-blackness.) my whole thing recently is like, how can we offer better allyship while also working on dismantling systems that keep us back. I see my ethnicity through lenses of survival and progression, as oppose to celebration and silence like I did as a child.
All of this reflects my current work and the work I want to do. I just recently put together a collective of my Filipinx friends, we call ourselves “KAIBIGANS” and are going to start airing podcast episodes surrounding the filipino identities and how we often feel alienated from our own communities because of ideologies and practices of anti-blackness, queerphobia, being bi-racial, living in a gentrified city, etc. I’m trying to create a space where Filipinx people on intersections, because there are so many of us on so many different intersections, can discuss what “being” Filipino means to us. My poetry and spoken word is always a reflection of my thought processes so whether i’m wiring about utilizing privilege, or feeling torn between two cultural worlds, or even just writing about heartbreak and existence, themes of being Asian, of being a mixed brown woman comes into play. In the future i’m hoping to enter the field of education or social work, in order to create support systems for children, especially children of color. I would love to do counseling with young Filipinx kids and help them work through issues a lot of Filipinx children culturally share growing up. Our communities have intergenerational trauma, whether we acknowledge it or not, and our children are born with that on their backs. I wanna do so much in this world, but knowing how confused I was as child, and how so many other Filipino/a/x children (along with other children of color whether that be black, latinx, korean, etc children) grow up harboring self hate really kills me. All of this is going to continue to be interwoven with my life’s work."
"My name is Maya Ghorpade. I was born in East Harlem and spent most of my childhood there. My parents are both from Maharashtra, India. I'm currently studying Nursing at New York University and create art on the side.
I chose the Conservatory Garden because it was my safe haven as a child. I was a latchkey kid, so I had the freedom to explore my neighborhood every day after school. One day I mustered up the courage to go inside and explore, and from then on it became my mini paradise. I had very few friends as an elementary schooler, so I opted to spend my afternoons in the Garden rather than in the playground socializing. I would pretend I was royalty or a goddess and that the garden was all mine. It was a place where I never had to come to terms with reality.
From a very early age, I strongly resented my ethnicity. Growing up in NYC post 9/11 meant I was subject to a lot of ignorance and racism. I felt very alienated and embarrassed whenever I tried to embrace my culture, and so I resorted to abandoning it altogether. It wasn't until I was in high school that I started to acknowledge and accept my Indian identity. I now consider it an integral part of who I am, and being Indian plays a huge role in both my academics and artwork. Whenever I draw or paint, I look to my heritage for inspiration. As a nurse, I want to serve the South Asian community
"I’m Tiffany Liu, I’m from the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. My gender pronouns are she/her/herself. My creative practice is in drawing, painting, and most recently in sculpting. I started drawing when I was four, in an art studio in Chinatown with a teacher I called Ms. Nana. My first painting was a watercolor of the PowerPuff Girls but instead of them actually being Powerpuff Girls they were Sailor Moon, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Mars in Powerpuff Girl form and that’s where an artist was born.
As a child, I loved being Chinese. Being Chinese was synonymous to being an artist. Every weekend since the age of 4, I spent my weekends in Chinatown where I took language classes, Chinese folk dance classes, and fine art studio classes before I quit when I was 16. Around the age of 11, when I developed low self esteem, I developed a bitterness and resentment within myself for having qualities that contributed to experiences of alienation, like my queerness and my heritage, from my communities. I placed my energy into being palpable to a community in a private, Christian school I attended for 13 years, being culturally legible enough to my Chinese family and our communities, and catering to myths of institutional survival." - Tiffany, in an ongoing photo and video series on and for creative Asian American Pacific Islander femmes, centered on exploring our collective childhoods. We revisit places that remind them of childhood and home and reflect on our thoughts on diaspora and our past selves.
I'm making peace with my childhood by focusing on a process of unlearning oppressive ways of thinking tied to logics behind White supremacy and Han supremacy that harm me, my family, and poor, black, brown, Indigenous, trans, non gender conforming communities world wide. And, navigating my overgrown diasporic roots in Mongolian, Sichuan, Hakka, Taiwanese, & Taokas heritage. I paint and draw landscapes that reflect cognitive maps of my internal states in reawakening my cultural identities and their relationships to land. The landscapes are imbued with cultural and ancestral knowledge on land, animals, nature, plants, and herbs. As of now though, majority of my work has been focusing on a personal mythology around these landscapes, sanctifying my internal landscapes, and mapping out various portals into the landscapes. A couple of months ago, I figured out the code to activating these portals. I had been dropping hints to myself for a while now and one day it occurred to me; It's my Chinese name."