“Where are you from?”
I will tell you I was born and raised in Vancouver.
I will tell you I go to university in Toronto.
I will tell you I lived in London for ten months.
I will tell you I am from Canada.
I will tell you my parents are from Hong Kong.
“Where is home?”
I will hesitate. But I will give you one of the answers from above, or all of them if you insist.
I won’t tell you though, which ones I consider home, which ones I don’t, and which ones are in-between. In all honesty, I don’t really know anymore.
‘Home’ has always been something of a foreign concept for me. It is a strange feeling to wake up one day, and decide that the city you are in, is not home and never will be home. How tragic yet exhilarating it is to realize that you do not belong in a city you might have once thought of as home. Tragic, because you realize you are an outcast. Exhilarating, because you can leave to find a new home where you do belong.
But what happens when one day in the city you thought would finally be the home you always longed for, the city where you thought you finally met people who understood you, the city where you considered settling down in for a while, becomes a city where walking down the streets does not feel right? That again, you do not belong. You are unwelcome.
Having lived in Europe for ten months last year, I was reminded of how ‘alien’ I was. ‘Reminded’, because it is a feeling I have felt before. I wonder if it will be a feeling that will stay with me forever.
Being a Canadian-born-Chinese is weird. Or rather, it isn’t weird being a Chinese-Canadian in Canada, but it is weird being a Chinese-Canadian abroad.
In many Western countries, I do not fit their visual criteria of ‘Canadian’. To them, I look Chinese; therefore, I must come from an Asian country. To them, my home must be in Asia.
In Hong Kong, my face says Chinese, but my language, clothing, and manners say otherwise. To them, I look Chinese but I am deemed a Westerner; therefore, I must not come from Hong Kong. To them, my home is not Asia.
In Canada, I am just Canadian. In Canada, I am not supposed to be weird. But am I limited to only calling Canada ‘home’? What if Canada does not feel like ‘home’? What happens when you feel like you don’t belong in a country which supposedly celebrates multiculturalism, yet seems to enforce Canadianization, or Westernization in order to belong?
I am Canadian. Or, I was a Canadian. Now, I’m just a second-class Canadian. Canada is rejecting me.
This is one of the reasons why I travel so much. A large part of it is because I love the thrill of travelling and immersing myself into new cities. It is an escape from my relatively mundane life, a chance to discover and experience the multitude of cultures that inhabit this world. But another part of it, I’ve come to realize in the past year, is that I am searching for a place, or places, I can call ‘home’. A place where I feel I belong.
This is why I photograph. It began as something I picked up from my older brother, a way for me to capture things I wanted to remember, a way to document my life. My photography has evolved since. I still photograph to remember things, but now, photography has also been a way for me to establish my relationship to a city and capture pieces of ‘home’. It is always fascinating to see, what subjects I choose to photograph in a city, which ones I share with the world, and which ones I retain for myself.
Photography is a way for me to familiarize myself with a place. A way for me to create and imagine a space I can call home.
I wonder if there will be a day I can confidently call a place ‘home’. I wonder where ‘home’ will be. I wonder if I already have a ‘home’.
– joyce chiu