Culture Clash: Asian Families on Creativity

Measuring success has always been a subjective matter. For some, such as many Asian communities, it’s based on a wealth of knowledge and prosperity, while others base success on the horsepower of their car and the price of their watch. Although, it is difficult for Asians in a western society to aim as high as wealthy white folk, as the playing field is far from level.

Reporter: Anisha Chowdhury | Sub-Editor: Larissa Gliddon

14612595_1240230216021885_8094462666423066965_o Amal now studies a Fine Art degree at Central Saint Martins | (Amal Ahmed)

For as long as I remember, my mother would tell me about how her father came to this country and struggled for years to make ends meet, just to give his children the future they deserve. She then went on to tell me that she has also spent her whole life doing the same, getting married at 19 and providing for us so we could go to university because she never got a chance to go there herself, and I will never understand that burden.

However, this didn’t mean that I was allowed to pursue anything I wanted in the future. My parents, along with many other Asian parents, needed to feel like they had produced a human being who would save lives and do people taxes and win cases in court, rather than someone who could paint.

Even if it’s unsaid, it was almost an unwritten code growing up, and may young asian creative suffer for these ideologies. Even though I really enjoyed writing poetry and studying literature, I subconsciously leaned towards journalism because it seemed like a more streamlined career choice to focus on, because let’s face it, writers never make any money.

Many of us, however, manage to break away from those ideas. Whether its semi-liberal parents or simply unadulterated courage, some young people break away and become the creative Lucy Lui’s of the world and excel in doing so. Spaced caught up with Amal, 20, who comes from an Arabic background and has started studying Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.

Have your parents always known about you wanting to pursue art?

I didn’t really know I was going to go to art school until I actually needed to sit down and decide what I was going to do at university. However, my parents were always pretty open about creativity since they’re both architects and have a little bit of background in creative thinking/working. I think they always knew I was going to go into something with art (might have been the time I was 14 and decided to write and paint all over the walls of my room haha!)

Have they supported that?

Oh yeah, for sure. There have been times where they’ve been hesitant at the decision I made but I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t paying for it so I definitely feel like they are supporting me in that sense!

What do your parents feel about you doing a fine art degree?

They are somewhat confused about it. On one hand they are so excited about the things I’m learning, reading, writing and exploring. Also they aren’t sure where it’s headed. It’s a tough one.

Does the opinions of your parents ever hold you back in any way? whether it’s with art or with life?

Oh yeah, like everyday. I’m constantly thinking about how to tell them about what I’ve been researching or what my work is doing. It’s also tough because my work goes into ideas around romance and desire. I feel like if I open up too much about my work and life with them, I will either never come back to uni again or just get long lectures on how taboo everything I do is! 

Why do you think Asian parents may not be as welcoming to the arts compared to a non Asian family?

I think there’s a huge stigma that Asian parents don’t want their children to pursue art-related subjects. And I suppose for the most part it may be kinda true (There’s only 4 brown people in the whole of my Fine art year!) But I think the root of the issue of Asian parents not being in favour of creative education is mainly a cultural thing. It’s a weird one. Some parents just don’t like anomalies of the system. Art is a big anomaly; it goes against and for everything and anything. I would say some Asian parents just don’t realise the benefits of not sticking with the system and doing a business, law or political science degree. Eurgh, political science… what the fuck does that even mean? You’re telling me politics can be a science, to learn? Nope, politics is a made up system by humans to control the values of exchange through a piece of paper with a number on it $$$. We’re all being brainwashed. It’s all about the money these days. And why do art when you can make money, pay rent, be comfortable. It’s a scary world we live in. 

What would you say to young Asian students trying to pursue the arts?

Go go go! Do your thing! Don’t let anyone get you down. Even though it feels like a never-ending existential crisis, at least you’re a real person expressing real feelings!


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