Vol 1 Part 2 : I Come From A Land Down Under (Or a Song by Men In Hats?)

Posted by Guest Contributor Naomi Ward & filed under But Where are You Really From?, Identity.


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My name is Naomi Ward. I’m a filmmaker. I love movies. I love magazines. I hate crowds and slow talkers. I have a brother and twin sisters. Current obsessions include Twilight and High School Musical and no, I’m not in the sixth grade.

If you were to ask me to tell you about myself, these are some of the answers you would hear. Ethnicity? Race? Where I’m from? If these things occur to me at all, they are probably gathering dust at the bottom of my list of characteristics, along with my insistence that different foods on the same plate not touch and a general distrust of pastel colours. It’s not that I don’t care about my ethnic roots. It’s not that I’m ashamed or that I don’t think ethnicity is important. It just doesn’t define me.

I’m half. Hapa, mixed, biracial. Whatever. I was born abroad but raised in Canada. Whether through ignorance or luck, I grew up blissfully unaware of any otherness until late high school when I suddenly began having frequent encounters with random strangers who would bluntly ask, “What are you?” I, of course, would stare back blankly while internally debating which high school archetype I most resembled.

Goth? No. Jock? Not really. Nerd? God, I hope not.

Before I could answer, the follow up question would arrive “Where are you from?” I would confidently answer with the name of my neighbourhood. Frustrated, the inquirer would invariably give up the interrogation, probably conclude I was something Chinese-y (aren’t we all?) and move on.

Over time I’ve come to recognize the curious glint in a person’s eye when my apparent ethnic ambiguity piques his or her interest. This skill gives me ample time to decide on how I feel like answering. Depending on my mood, (or what I want), I can respond any number of ways. Sometimes I like to ask a person to guess. This game of torture is particularly fun for me, especially when it leads to answers as delicious as half-Polynesian-quarter-Morroccan-eighth-Jewish-Carribean. When someone is especially timid I find it amusing to inform them (in the coolest tone possible) that I am Black. This has an almost paralyzing effect as the mortified person sputters and stutters a disjointed apology for something they can’t quite articulate (I can just hear them thinking, “Please, just don’t think I’m racist”). I’ve also had some very pleasant conversations about my native country, Narnia, which has finally found stability after a long period of civil unrest.

My name is Naomi. I watch way too much television. I think it should be illegal for Ikea to sell art. When I say I like the sequel to Grease more then the original, I’m not being ironic. My personal diversity is all about the privilege of being owned by no one. Nobody can claim me. I don’t owe anyone. I am free to be and celebrate whatever I want …

I wouldn’t want to come from anywhere else.

+ Do you have a But Where Are You REALLY From? story? We would love to include it in our special series. Please email us at submit[at]schemamag.ca.

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