Draw a picture for the Asian Girl to Be among
Other portraits of the Others that don’t look wrong
To collective eyes that seek where we belong
We’re all made to be the Asian Girl™ at a point, space or headspace in time. That perspective never stemmed from our own eyes. The self-consciousness of alienation experienced by a migrant woman of colour growing up in Aotearoa has always uncomfortably blanketed our psyche, as we looked in the mirror and saw what ‘they’ would assume of us.
When I was 8, I’d listen to pop radio stations all day. I wanted to be a part of the same white girl choruses, melodies, words and world that my Pākehā classmates seemed to live in. This world was a place of comfort in being, where they could just be the default ‘girl’ instead of being a “_*ethnicity here*_ girl’. A sense of hyper awareness rose in my subconscious- dooming me to a future of shyness, aka unnecessary humility and silence, aka regrets of the words I wish I’d said to defend myself, affirm myself, accept myself and allow myself. Thus begins our formative years in search and struggle for the validation of being heard and visible- as a ‘token’, rejection and rebellion against their culture then our culture and a further couple years in undoing the internalised racism and sexism along the way.
I never heard a Korean (other than PSY) or any other East Asian artist on New Zealand radio stations or saw anyone looking like me on the TV screen unless they were blended into the background or only had one dimension. Our colours were absent on the sparse canvas of diversity and as a result I felt absent from opportunities to ever make and perform my own music. The vast majority of people I ever saw perform their music with a confidence that expected attention- were Pākehā and boys. Compared to the privilege of their presence, my music seemed too personal and quiet to present my voice and my words. But I came to learn that It’s unhealthy to bite your tongue in such a way that the words you hold in sprout as failed crops, withering from a lack of allowance from those around you who do not accept nor try to see the wholeness of your being.
We are Asian girls and our identities and cultures don’t have a trademark. Our own essence and experiences shouldn’t be covered by self-consciousness, but expressed in awareness and allowance. The art you make is therapeutic, validating, empowering and highly communicative in speaking your truth. In the art we allow ourselves to create and put out there are the movements of expression that links our perceived experiences, identities, culture and language as multifaceted and creatively unique women of colour to that of our sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers.
We can create what we want to, all by ourselves. The independent age of ‘bedroom artists’ allows us to hold total authority over the art we can make. Whether you write poems in your notebook, produce music using cracked programmes to upload to soundcloud or post your art to instagram, feel a very rightful and deserved pride in your work.
By Yery Cho
You can check out Yery's band Imugi 이무기's Vacasian EP on their Soundcloud.