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TENGKU SHARIL (b. 1996) is an alumni from the batch of 2014’s H2 Art Class. He is currently serving his national service in the army and is set to pursue architecture for his undergraduate studies.

By Joanna Ng

What motivated you to produce this work?
As I’m of Malay-Chinese desent, I was interested in exploring the ‘race’ part of my
identity. I wanted to talk about the dissimilarity between the two cultures, and
this is what served as the starting point. But as the work progressed on, I started to see
the work, not just as exploring two different and separate cultures…but looking at them
in terms of a mix, or rather the interaction of two different entites. They are like two
things that look different on the outside but are actually rather similar in terms of their
finer aspects.

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What do you mean by ‘finer aspects’?
For example, when people look at these cultures, people only see the difference on
what is outside, like the type of celebrations, rituals, the traditional dressing and foods
etc. In my opinion, I find that alot of these different customs and practices, actually
stem from very similar values. For one, there is the act of visiting friends, relatives
and friends which is practiced during both Chinese New Year and Hari Raya. I feel that
both cultures, fundamentally value time spent with family…there is that emphasis on
building relationships and the appreciation of people and their presence. Being in my
position, I see many parallels between both cultures.

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What do you think about the double-barrelled IC category that was introduced in 2010?
I am definitely supportive of it . I think sometimes, for people with a double-barrelled identity, they may find themselves out of place when they are grouped with a single culture. From personal experience, whenever I’m placed in a strictly Chinese environment, I know I look different becasue of the nature of my skin colour, I definitely stick out. I feel even more out of place when I’m placed in a Malay dominated environment, especially when they start to notice my accent is different and when they realise that I can’t speak or understand Malay. I feel that with this policy, it can offer such peoples a better sense, clarification and a better reflection of who they really are because of the choice given and declared.

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What does being mixed race mean to you?
I feel that it is a blessing, to be placed in both worlds, to occupy this positon of being, so called mixed race. Having grown up in such an environment where I have family from both sides, and experiencing both cultures from an insider point of view, it really allows me to draw parallels and insights on both cultures from this position. I definitely have a better appreciation of the diversity in our society.

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Do you identify more closely with one of the two races that you have inherited?
No, I don’t… Although I think my situation is slightly different because of the fact that
I’m Muslim and the community is largely Malay-Muslim. Coupled together with the
fact that these religious ceremonies and gatherings are all Malay-dominated. But
ironically my mother tongue is mandarin and that allows me to communicate better
with my Chinese peers. If you want me to choose, I cannot really say I’m closer to
either one.

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How has the production of this artwork changed any of your sentiments of being mixed-race?
The entire process of creating this artwork was a constant reflection on what it’s like
to hold this identity and through it, it made me more thoughtful about the existence
of these two cultures. For example, how they fit in society and their position within
the spaces we live in today… I feel that through this work, I could offer people a
unique and different perspective on how people can view race, especially the
position and the significance they occupy and hold in our country.

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Would you like to share any other thoughts?
I really hope people can reflect and look beyond the differences amongst us and to
instead, not only be accepting but be appreciative of these differences.

tsharilpg1

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