In 2019 I started a project to try and illustrate through photography and metaphors the struggles of the multicultural child. Through six photographs I want to show different challenges and emotions of feeling torn between cultures. It is meant to show some complex emotions that can’t always be explained and hopefully create some understanding for the third culture kids and their emotions. I hope you like it…
The symbol of the spoon, first of all is the same in all the photographs. The spoon is an international and common utensil. However it is used differently around the world, and this reflects the feelings of the mixed child that may feel different connections in different countries and settings. Also in many asian countries it is more common to eat with a fork and spoon rather than a fork and knife.
The pictures are taken in the dark which symbolizes how it may sometimes feel that you’re fumbling in the dark searching for answers, but I’ve added lens flare through a small light source to symbolize the different and confusing elements of hope. Where does the hope come from? What does it lie in? What will it lead to?
All spoons look the same
If we don’t have experience or knowledge of cultures, we often struggle with seeing the distinctive differences in cultures outside our own. I’ve heard this stigma my whole life and you’ve probably heard them too. Those phrases “all asians/black/white look the same” you can hear it everywhere. It used to irritate and anger me, until I realized that all it took was some training and knowledge. At first glance, people who are of a different culture than you might look very much alike, but as you begin to get to know the features of the specific country you start being able to tell people apart. If you can’t, it’s simply lack of exposure – or you might be face blind and should have that checked out!
As humans we are hardwired to categorize, it helps us process, remember and survive. We put people in boxes and label them to help ourselves figure them out and know what to expect from them. We crave predictability. This can be tricky and a sensitive subject for the multicultural kid. Which box do you fit in? Your teens may be a crucial stage where you are searching for identity and your sense of self. If you don’t manage to figure out a sense of stability with who you are, this can follow you through life.
Wrong place at the right time
The mixed child may often be put into a “wrong box” and find themselves expected to perform outside their scope of ability. It can be as simple as “oh you’re from Norway? You don’t look Norwegian!” Or “But you’re part Filipino, why don’t you speak tagalog?” This can lead to feeling inadequate. People might expect you to look a certain way, have certain knowledge or be a certain way. Breaking out of boxes can hurt from both sides.
Multicultural children often have a “main” culture that eats up or envelops the others. This may also be a coping mechanism, that you need to identify with one culture to be able to fit into a box. I also chose to use silver spoons because mixed kids might suffer from some sort of guilt if the different sides of the families come from different means. You might feel that the one side of the family sees you as privileged.
Stabbed in the back
Sometimes you may feel like your cultures are stabbing you in the back, like if you comprise of different cultures and they contradict each other. Or you might feel like you are stabbing one of your cultures in the back by siding with another. It can be a constant push and pull and make you feel guilty for whatever you choose.
Out of line
Feeling an outcast of society, that you don’t fit in. What you can’t tell from this photograph is that this particular spoon isn’t magnetic so it won’t attach to the knife rack. It’s like that in life too, you might look like you fit right in, the detached part is inside you, that feeling that you don’t belong. I’ve put the fallen spoon in the spotlight, because teens often feels this imagined audience and as multicultural this can be magnified and you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb.