Saturday, August 28, 2021

Someone Made Art of Me!

There's an amazing mixed-race Korean artist named Lee-Won Fulbright who recently completed an art project featuring other mixed-race Koreans. I was so honored to be one of the people included in her art, and with her permission I'm sharing the results on the blog. She combined photos and illustrations of us in a Korean patchwork quilt style called jogakbo (조각보). (Do you recognize the photo in mine?) Tradition jogakbo is made from scraps of left-over fabric, and I thought it was a beautiful way to represent the different parts and pieces that make us who we are especially as people of mixed Korean heritage.

Every piece in this collection includes the word honhyeol (혼혈), a word I have heard often in Korean class, the news, and more and more in life. If you look this word up in a Korean-English dictionary, you could get any translation from "(neutral) mixed-race" to "(derogatory) half-breed". If I understand the word correctly, the most literal translation is "mixed blood", a heavy word in a culture that was once known for tanil minjok (단일민족). Tanil minjok is a historical Korean ethnic nationalism that focuses on pure bloodlines. As Korea becomes more multicultural, the idea of who or what can be Korean is (slowly) changing.

These are just some of the things that mixed-race Korean people and mixed-race people in general wrestle with on a constant basis: how we identify, how others see us, whether we can be fully accepted by any of our constituent parts, and more. I have deeply enjoyed talking with other mixed people about these issues and how they have shaped our understanding of ourselves, others, and the greater communities we inhabit. Like all great art, Lee-Won's work is both aesthetically beautiful and a meaningful conversation starter. I highly recommend you check out all her work on her website.

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