20s, Student

Hi, I'm Camellia. I'm turning 20 this year. And I'm currently studying Creative Direction in fashion at LASALLE.

What’s your family’s cultural background?

My great grandparents migrated here, so I'm mixed of blood. My mom is Chinese-Malay. My dad is Pakistani-Malay. So, I have Malay, Chinese, and Thai descent. So my whole family came from all over the world. I'm born in Singapore, but I live overseas. So, I was always travelling and learning about different cultures as well. 

"I'm always considered the whitewashed kid by my family because me and my sister both have lived overseas."

What’s your relationship with the Singaporean identity?

I think I feel displaced by it. Because I've never really grew up here since I was eight. And I feel ever since I moved back here for studies, I don't feel like I belong. It's like 50-50, because my family will teach me some stuff about several culture. And then I'm in LASALLE, it's a different culture, more international. Most of my friends who are here international as well, so that's a whole identity thing. I don't think I fit in the Singaporean groups as well.My family are Muslim. We are mainly inclined towards the Malay culture more. So we're quite traditional in Malay culture. But for me, I like to mix around with different cultures as well. I never really understand the Singapore's culture. People explain it to me and I'll be super confused. I'm always considered the whitewashed kid by my family because me and my sister both have lived overseas. So we both have like different predisposition from my cousins, my aunties, and uncles who live here, study here, and raised here their whole life. 

Tell us about your chosen objects

I chose this mint green kebaya because I want it to represent the Malay side and also the Chinese side as well. For me, the kebaya is like the product of peranakan, which is Chinese Malay. And I wanted to represent that in my mix culture as well. And also, it means a lot to me because it was something my grandma bought for me. It reminds me of her and her heritage, because she's also she's actually Chinese. I wanted to have that, like symbolises her in it.

I do wear it for special occasions, like in weddings and all. If I feel like I'm going to be more experimental with trying to be putting in my traditional costumes into my casual wear, so I would probably put wear that probably often as well.

"I like to just label myself as a mixed. Because even if I stick to Malay, I'm not really a Malay. But I am proud of it as well."

Are there any external influences that have shaped your cultural identity?

Because I live overseas, I've more influenced by western culture. I'm also an international students. So, Western culture has permeated my life. I wasn't really surrounded by the Malay, or the Chinese culture as much. Even I lived in Malaysia and the national languages,Malay, I couldn't speak it. I wasn't the best at it. I feel like I lost my cultural identity because of that. I didn't see myself as a Malay, Chinese or whatever. During that time, I was trying to figure out my race and my ethnicity as well.Most of my friends are mixed as well. We always have the struggle of trying to understand what race we are, or trying to find understand what kind of culture to follow, as well. Everyone needs to figure out their own backgrounds.Right now, I really understand myself more. After a while, I started to understand who I am as a person. Although my family likes to just label them as Malay, I like to just label myself as a mixed. Because even if I stick to Malay, I'm not really a Malay. But I am proud of it as well. It is a unique ethnicity, like you will never hear it in other types of worlds as for Asia, it's a unique kind of culture and race.

What are your thoughts on labels placed on one's racial or ethnic identity? 

It's very stereotypical, because it's quite old fashioned, like you label someone because of a stereotype then you may never know who they truly are. In Singapore, I realised that everything is based on race. If you're not this, you're not allowed to do this. I don't like the fact that everything is based by race. There are mixed race people that cannot be labelled as one race. If you look a certain way, they judge you. Because from time to time, I do get mistaken for Chinese. They always talk to me in Chinese, and I'm always trying to process it. Like, I don't know if you don't understand English, or you guys just want to speak Chinese because you guys don't want to talk English. It's no respect for me at any reason.