Harmful myths around ESEA identity are often reduced to either ‘model minority’ – quiet, hardworking and studious – or ‘insidious threat’, as incarnate in the racist character Dr Fu Manchu. The COVID-related Asian Hate, together with the escalation of the Black Lives Matter movement, has motivated many ESEA people to challenge stereotypes and build community. By drawing on lived experiences, personal cosmologies and knowledge sharing, collaborators are collectively imagining new performance aesthetics as means of self-expressing identity.
‘HK Future Diaspora Part 2’ is the second cycle of ‘Performing Identities’, an ambitious project led by artist and filmmaker Eelyn Lee that explores what it means to be East and Southeast Asian [ESEA] in the UK today through collaboration with other ESEA artists and wider communities.
Eelyn worked with several postgraduate researchers during this cycle. Franco Ho, Kathy Xu, Jonathan Tang, Winnie Lam and Yali Zhang all took on distinct project roles, such as producing music, creatively documenting and evaluating performances, mapping spaces in Sheffield of value to ESEA communities, and building connections with ESEA communities in other cities.
Eelyn utilised this performance research to create a set of contemporary mythical characters, born from sites of diaspora. Through continued collaboration and widening engagement with Sheffield’s ESEA communities, she brought these characters to life through movement and sound. Through creative inquiry, the project asked questions such as, what are the movements of diaspora and what creature is conjured when these characters come together to make one collective beast?
This narration of shared and disparate identities is due be performed on the streets of Sheffield and in a short film shot on locations around the city. A work-in-progress performance took place at Bloc Projects in 2022.
Check out Bloc Projects for further insight into the HK Diaspora project and the creative process behind it.