Lienke (39) Singer, born and raised in Arnhem, living in Rozendaal. Her father was born in the Dutch East Indies, my mother was born in the Netherlands. Her grandparents also have a mixed background. My grandfather is the child of a Javanese woman and a Dutch man. She works as a singer with Kenny B and performs a lot at home and abroad. She also teaches singing.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
Not really, my parents have always supported me in what I wanted to do in terms of education. Never pushed but always encouraged. The most important thing was that I’m doing what makes me happy. However, it was important that I could take good care of myself financially, so independence and responsibility are very important. Especially as a woman (feminist parents)
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
No, not a taboo at all. With us, everything is negotiable.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
Yes, more and more as I get older. This is also because my father (officially 1st generation but emotionally 2nd generation) was himself in his younger years busy with his background (also because he is often discriminated against, was and sometimes still is) He has written two books with his experiences and anecdotes. As a graduation thesis, my sister also wrote a book “From Pasar Malam To I love Indo” about her experiences about identity. My father always told us (my sister and me) about our background so that we know our history. “Best of both worlds” Especially now that I also play in the performance Rumah Saya, I am working on the fact that the first and second generation of Indo-Dutch is getting smaller and smaller, but that I think it is important to pass on their story. Also because often this generation often remained silent to assimilate as soon as possible.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
Did you ever had a role model when you grew up?
No, I don’t really think so, but when the Disney movie Pocahontas came out I was immediately attracted to the main character because she looked a bit like me. When Disney released Mulan I was a bit older but I also thought that was a nice new step.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I think that despite the colonial history, the Dutch unfortunately know far too little about Asian culture. It is also a part of the Netherlands precisely because of those few hundred years of colonization. There is also too much looking at that period with colored glasses. Here, for example, much more attention has been paid to the 2nd World War in Europe, but that it was also there at the same time in Asia is hardly known. Well, the Asian culture itself does not always have a completely open culture, but that also has its reasons. Asian Representation in the media (on TV) for example is very mediocre, anyway I think that can be much more diverse in terms of ethnic background.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’?
No, I can’t be put in a box. Not as an individual and not in the field of work. I’m not just my background but it’s a part of me. Don’t judge a Book by its cover but by the content of Their character 😊 However, I regularly have to explain to people that I am not half Indonesian, and not half Indian but half Dutch-Indies. I like to do explain it nowadays because people are also open to learning, but it is a shame that they do not know their own Dutch history.
What made you who you are now?
My upbringing and background certainly play a big role of both my father AND my mother but also my own development that I have gone through through everything I have done, experienced and the friends I have. I think you always keep developing and growing. So I myself have a big part in this as well. The choices I made. The quotes “Later when I grow up I become myself (and happy)” and “I’ve never done it before so I think I can do it” fit me well.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
Yes, as a young girl on holiday in Greece I was called “Chinese princess” by a boy who was in love with me and I thought that was a nice compliment. Once I was called “poochinees” by a child (boy of 8 maybe) in the presence of older sister or babysitter oid… I just about fell off my bike because I was so shocked. I was about 20 years old at the time and not as ad rem as I am now so I was so shocked that I just cycled on. I would have said something about it right now.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Well-mannered and great sense of responsibility. I see food culture in all Asian cultures. Proud people and respect for the elderly. Not always very emancipated because of the traditions.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance?
I’m on stage a lot and it only struck me after a few years that I am often announced by several colleagues, independently of each other, as a “tropical surprise” I do not yet know exactly what I think of that but I think there is (unconsciously) the deep-rooted “colonial” thinking behind it.
What racist remarks and discrimination have you experienced? Have you experienced it before? Where, when, how? Which experience do you remember most? So has it gotten worse with the Coronavirus? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
Rarely happens but has happened sometimes. In Germany I was not allowed to use the toilet but my “white” mother did (they did not know that we belonged together) Poochinese has always stayed with me (as described earlier in answer) Because I have a universal appearance, is sometimes mistaken for Moroccan or Turkish or Spanish, I have also sometimes been received improperly on the bus where I stepped on with a Turkish girlfriend. My best friend, adopted from Indonesia, and her Chinese husband regularly get nasty looks and she hears poochinese all her life. She wants to say something about it, but Chinese friend and his Chinese family who are there prefer to stay quiet. According to her, the discrimination against Asian people due to the Coronavirus has only gotten worse.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you ?
I have Asian blood but I am very Dutch in terms of directness, for example. That must be my feminist mother in me.
In Asian culture, it is normal as a woman to get married as soon as possible, have children, and become a housewife. Because when you have a husband, you have children, you have “made” it in life. How do you see it?
Well, super feminist so I see that very differently. I was not raised that way at all, also because my free-spirited feminist mother had to break away from a very strict Protestant family. For me, the self-reliance of a woman (or man) and whether she wants children at all is a great asset. If I have learned 1 thing is that I should never depend on a man. Thanks mom!
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I hope for more representation in the media and in politics on all fronts (different colors and backgrounds of the Dutch population) More woman, more colored and more diversity in all areas. At the moment, I often don’t see a real reflection of reality. I often speak out about this and I express it. “We are not equal but we are equal” quote Kenny B and there we strive for a nice mix of all kinds of cultures and Kenny is also committed to that. I will continue to do so. In addition, we will continue our Rumah Saya performance (10 new performances) in April and May 2022. We hope to reach even more people here who can recognize themselves in the personal stories and feel heard by them.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I wish that people in the Netherlands would at least know more about their own culture, including the Asian side. Indonesia, for example, to start with. So much shared history there. That only happens if people want to know that and keep discovering it. As long as one can be made curious about that and possibly travel more. Unfortunately, I think there will always be people who remain afraid of the unknown. If you never eat Thai food, for example because you do not know it and therefore do not want to try it, I am afraid that you will not discover much new about something you do not (yet) know
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