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Friday, 11 August 2017

Melting pot

We rehearse on Sundays, first in an abandoned office block turned into a home on the Grand Union Canal, then in a bedroom turned music studio in a flat above a fried chicken shop. Appearances deceive us, and a ballerina from Paris by way of Guadeloupe thinks that a blonde caucasian flautist is English because of her cut-glass intonation gained at a British school in Holland. We also have a rapping Londoner who arrived by way of Algeria, and a composer who cut his teeth on a true mash up of heavy metal, electronic dance music, Bach, organs, Afrobeats and Spanish classical guitar, who is here thanks to imperial interventions in Nigeria and Guyana, that last one being Guyanese by way of India, Africa and Portugal.

We'll look back on this period in thirty or so years time and feel incredibly bohemian, but I hope that my future self is still growing and learning and humble.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Automatic writing

The best kind of writing I feel is automatic writing. This is something which I am trying to do now, an outpouring of thoughts which form directly in my mind and reach the blank page or white screen immediately. My fingers holding pen or pressing the computer keyboard becomes an extension of my brain's inner narrative. The best work, I find, comes from this kind of automatic writing - that elusive, slippery zone which produces concepts and thoughts that are somehow pure, and somehow perfect in their difficult natural flow. My fingers press away like the veritable wind, backtracking every so often to correct errors in the order of characters, for I've forgotten my touch typing lessons of so many years ago.

I feel that there are two types of automatic writing, which to my mind is characterised by a need strong and irrepressible to form words in the world, to form concrete and even tangible words, you could say, out there on the other side of your cranium. A desperation, a longing, a possibility which is not questionable but simply realised. Firstly there is the pursuit of an idea, an obsession, a concept that sparks something within and therefore with out. And secondly there is the autobiographical narrative, the confessional, the diary. Both are wonderful, but one in particular lifts. I speak the words inside and outside, on my tongue and off my finger tips. Whisper. Lips.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mixed-up, Mixed Race; or, 20+ Years of Eurasian Angst

Me and my nose, Ho Chi Minh City, February 2014


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"Perhaps intermarriage is the solution of the great racial problem," suggested the Professor. 
"Never," said the old administrator. "Keep the breed pure, be it white, black, or yellow. Bastard races cannot flourish. They are a waste of nature."  

-from 'Kimono' by John Paris (1921). 
Published by Penguin Books, 1947, pp.12-13

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Eurasians are alternatively demonised and fetishised in colonial-era literature; and post-colonial literature continues to uphold the shaky ground upon which so-called 'half-castes' tread. Commonly depicted as being unwelcome in white and 'native' communities alike, it is only recently that the positive stereotypes - but stereotypes all the same - of Eurasians being beautiful has won out. In our current image-obsessed culture, we live out the archaic assumption that to be beautiful equals to be good, and therefore good-looking Eurasians are good things too. White communities like us because we represent the allure of the exotic, but with some familiar features that remind them of Caucasians. Asian communities like us because we are often fair-skinned, with lighter hair, and may display the strong jawline and more pointed nose which is characteristic of Westerners; basically because we have Western physical traits which they themselves find desirable. It's the timeless appeal of the Other, a type of beauty in sight but just out of grasp.

Out of grasp, that is, until beauty standards met the cosmetic surgery industry and they exploded in a huge, fast, scary way. When I spent two weeks travelling around Vietnam in 2014, it was assumed that I was North Vietnamese, and I was constantly asked if I had had my nose job done in Korea. The same thing has happened with Indonesian tourists in Bali.

People were not trying to determine if I was Eurasian, half white. I was stopped by multiple groups of adoring women who simply said to me, "You're so beautiful! Did you get your nose job done in Korea?"

The famous Nose in profile, Ho Chi Minh City, February 2014

Hanh, Nelly and me, HCMC, Feb '14. All real noses: two Vietnamese, one Eurasian


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I am reminiscing about this trip, and longing to see old friends. I wrote the majority of this text two years ago, and have just found it languishing in the 'drafts' folder of this blog. I am publishing it now because I have recently come to realise that although I am constantly interested and intrigued by people's experiences of race and empire, I have done very little to interrogate my own relationships and understandings of these concepts. I hope to do more of this over the coming year, and aim to document those mental wonderings and wanderings in this space, online. I feel that this is an especially relevant activity in light of my [upcoming] PhD research methodology.

As always, I would love to hear back from any of my readers, particularly those from a multi-ethnic background. Please feel free to comment on any blog posts, or contact me at chinesefashion @ outlook.com

-Anushka

Monday, 3 July 2017

Deconstructing Fashion Podcast




Deconstructing Fashion, a podcast.
Thoughts on fashion and culture, present and past.
I have started recording a fashion history podcast together with fellow MA Fashion Cultures alumni Siân and Lindsay. We are three smart women talking about fun things, so if you're looking for new podcasts and are fans of the talk show format, do give us a listen! 

You can find us on iTunes and Soundcloud. Click here for our website, which has a list of episodes with full descriptions and show notes. 

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider giving us a review on iTunes! It would really help us improve our ratings and reach other listeners. 


Find us online at http://deconstructingfashionpod.com and contact us at hello[at]deconstructingfashionpod.com

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Upcoming Talk: The Samfu Suit, 1920-1979

Image copyright: Anushka Tay

I will be presenting my Masters thesis The Samfu Suit, 1920-1979. Diaspora, Identity, Representation at the Costume Society Conference on Saturday 1 July 2017.

This research proved to be a journey across both time and land, taking me deep into library archives as well as into the memories of family and friends. I carried out this research in London, Singapore and Hong Kong in summer 2016 for my dissertation for MA Fashion Cultures at the London College of Fashion (passed with distinction).

This research was supported by several grants: Costume Society Yarwood Award 2016; Pasold Textiles MA Research Grant; London College of Fashion: Fashion Matters Project Bursary.

Tickets are still available. Click here for more information & booking.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Where have you been

June 2017
Time is measured out in chords learned and scales mastered, in stitches made and socks piled up in the dresser. I ask myself constantly how I have arrived in June from January, and what do I have to show? Travel, music, conversation. Friendships strengthened and knowledge gained, and then lost. All these things are invisible yet mount up to leave indelible marks on the inside. I am trying to be a better artist, by which I mean not a painter or sculptor but a daily practitioner of creation. Sometimes when things seem too quiet it's as much as a loss as when time is too full. I am trying to return to better habits, to relearn ways of working and being that led me to better places in the past. Bear with me while I try.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Screen, paper and face



We are sitting in the window of a chain café on the edge of the Strand. We are drinking small cups of coffee with Italian names which have just been prepared using coffee beans grown somewhere in South America. We have been looking at photographs taken fifty years ago in West Africa of people running, dancing, jumping, playing. A painter told me that good paintings lift you, they give you something, you walk away feeling like you're richer. She's not keen on photography, yet I feel that this notion of being rich in spirit even when your pockets are empty can be applied to all works of human creativity. Certainly, I feel wonderful after looking at all those photographs of anonymous people in a far-away place and a far-away time. They are here and I am there.

Back to the present, and suddenly we hear a burst of shouting and calling. A group of people are passing by waving placards, and I remember the notice that I'd seen tied to a traffic light at a pedestrian crossing advertising a march to show support immigrant workers. I'd also seen it advertised online, and suddenly here it is in front of me. I am at leisure, sitting here in the middle of the day philosophising, because my four grandparents migrated to London to study, to work, to seek refuge from persecution. They found jobs, then each other; they renounced their former citizenships to settle and stay; they raised children. They paid taxes. They never claimed social benefits. Why would they?

There is a problem in this country called race, and people who do not have peach skin, deep eye sockets, straight hair and thin lips are ceaselessly made to feel unwelcome. I can't be proud of a country whose people constantly question my birthplace. It is always assumed that I, and others who resemble me, come from somewhere else. The location is abstract, and foreign, and far away. When migrants are demonised by the media and by politicians, as they currently are, I wonder what is the desired alternative. Nationalism in England has a nasty undercurrent of racism and fascism. Currently, new migrants and religious minorities are scapegoated for the nation's problems; whilst descendants of old migrants are constantly made to feel unwelcome, like we're not part of the country. I guess that I don't always want to be British, but I am, and there's no where else for me to go. This is the home that I come from, and I have no choice but to stay.