Nazrina (31) was born and raised in Rotterdam. Her parents are both Indo-Surinamese. She is a visual artist. She identifies as lesbian/queer and she’s autistic/neurodivergent.
What kind of upbringing did you have? There is also a term: “Tiger parents or Tiger mom”. Did you have a similar upbringing?
My parents were very protective. They maybe had some expectation for me to become a doctor or a lawyer when I was in middle school/high school, but when I eventually decided to pursue art they didn’t seem to have any strong feelings against that. I think they didn’t really understand what it could mean for my future. The only thing they have always worried about the most is whether I was safe and had enough to eat.
Are there any taboos or things that you can’t discuss with your parents?
I can’t discuss my queerness and relationships with my parents. It’s a taboo to talk about these things in Indo-Surinamese culture. I did come out of the closet so they know about me being a lesbian, but we just don’t talk about it. I can bring my partner home though and they’ll treat them very well.
Do you feel close with your Asian roots or not?
I grew up watching Bollywood movies and eating Indo-Surinamese versions of Indian foods. My parents speak a language based on multiple Indian languages. So yes, I do feel close to my Asian roots, and trying to get even closer to it by learning the language and finding out more about specifically Indo-Surinamese history and culture and its origins.
Did you ever feel ashamed of you being Asian?
No never felt ashamed, but I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of people from different cultural backgrounds and went to a very multicultural school so that might be why.
Did you ever had a role model when you grew up?
Because I didn’t have queer bipoc role models while growing up I’ve now created a whole illustrated poetry book highlighting the stories of queer bipoc role models in the Netherlands. I think seeing people who look like you in media makes a huge difference and having more of that would have definitely helped me in my journey of self-acceptance.
What do you think of the Asian representation in The Netherlands?
I’ve met lots of people here in The Netherlands who still don’t know the difference between Indian and Indo-Surinamese despite Suriname being one of the places colonized by The Netherlands. So yes I think representation for the different Asian groups here and the way our stories and histories are being told in the media and schools should be done better. Not just because people mistake me for something I’m not, but also because having more Indo-Surinamese representation in the arts specifically would have helped my younger self develop herself as an artist in a much deeper way sooner.
Do you feel like you’re the ‘The Asian Model Minority Myth’? x
I’m definitely not ‘The Asian Model Minority’. First of all I’m not a doctor or lawyer or engineer. I’m an artist, I don’t make a lot of money and I’m an activist. I didn’t graduate with the best grades, took me 6 years to complete my bachelor’s degree and I went the vmbo to mbo to hbo route.
What made you who you are now?
The experiences I’ve gone through while growing up. Being autistic but not being diagnosed until my 30th, only when things went completely south mental health wise. I was living in confusion about myself in terms of queerness and neurodivergence. My activism and the people I’ve met through it, especially the queer bipoc community, have also played a big role in who I am today.
Have people also made comments about you being Chinese? How did you react to this, what did you feel?
See comment about being mistaken for Indian or Pakistani.
What are stereotype Asians in your opinion and where does that come from? Do you see other Asians like those stereotypes?
Stereotype Asians are smart, good at studying, quiet, don’t make a fuss about things like racism, are the “good” immigrants. These are stereotypes created by white supremacy so they can divide and conquer. They have been playing brown people off against black people for ages and using these stereotypes is just another tactic.
What stereotypes and comments have you heard about your appearance? Do you identify with that too? How do you see yourself compared to how others see you? What do you feel and how do you feel when people make such comments?
People have always assumed I’m quiet because I’m Indo-Surinamese (look Indian), but I was actually quiet because I’m autistic and have social anxiety and nobody bothered to check that or pay attention to my mental health. It’s very damaging and I’m sure a white kid would’ve had a much better chance of getting the help they needed a lot earlier in life.
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?
Koelie, you smell like spices, wash your clothes/jacket. All mostly heard at school but also in the streets. No for people who look South-Asian I don’t think it’s gotten worse with the coronavirus. I feel insulted and like people look down on me and especially when they call me koelie, a racial slur, my head just explodes, that word hurts the most.
What is a funny trait or tell something that not everyone knows about you
I can actually be very loud and goofy when I feel comfortable with someone. Also, I can whistle any tune. My dad is a bird lover and whistled like one all the time at home, so that’s where I got that from.
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?
So I grew up thinking this was the only trajectory in life for a girl/woman, but I’m queer and so I soon realized none of the traditional heterosexual rules would ever apply to me. And it felt so freeing. Everyone should feel like they have the freedom to live their life the way they want it, no matter what gender they are.
Where do you stand now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m honestly pretty confused about where I stand right now and what I want for the future. I’m always looking for different ways I can continue being an activist and help create a better world without getting burned-out or falling into depression. I would love to move away from The Netherlands and find some other place that feels like home a lot more.
What do you want to give to the readers?
I hope this project helps readers feel more represented and inspired to tell their own story in their own way.
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