Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Happened to chance upon an art exhibition at the foot of my building. They always have exhibits there for free viewing but I never step in. This time I did (partly because there was a lame fire drill going on and I couldn't yet get back into office). There was an exhibit by Willis Turner Henry, an Indonesian Chinese artist, on culture and identity. Her pieces reflect her biculturalism - in Indonesia, she's a Chinese. In China, she's an Indonesian.

That's interesting. It's the same for me as a Singaporean Chinese. We emphasize what's different, distinctive, and distinguishing of ourselves.

Why is this so? Does it serve the purpose of providing more information about myself to people I introduce myself to that I regard as the general mass of the place I'm in (certainly, telling Singaporeans that I'm Singaporean doesn't tell them much)? Does this represent the age-old tug between fitting in the group and individualizing yourself, and in this case for whatever reason individualization wins out? Or is it something to do with pride? Does it follow that I not only indicate the cultural identity in me that is distinguishing, but that I behave in ways to emphasize it - speak more like a Singaporean in China and more like a Chinese in Singapore? I don't quite imagine myself doing this, but I'm a lousier judge of my own character than I am of others. Does everyone else do this (I pretty much think so)?

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