Eurasian Voices on Record

For The Record is an artistic mix of techniques, voices and stories, all focused on the Eurasian community in Singapore. Bronwyn Sharman sat down with the two artists, Charlene Shepherdson and Cheyenne Phillips, as they embark on a brand new project.


Charlene Shepherdson and Cheyenne Phillips - artists in residence at Centre 42What is For The Record?

Cheyenne: It’s a three-stage project. We’re doing a show, an interactive exhibition, and developing a manuscript. So we’re taking new stories, as well as old stories that have never been recorded, and trying to put them down using different mediums.

Charlene: The main idea is to get narratives that have slipped under the radar. Because we–Eurasians–are not a convenient narrative. We are an incredibly complex group of people. People try to simplify it. It’s easier to say, “Oh, all Eurasians are Portuguese Eurasians,” which is not true–we have British Eurasians, which is what I am, and Cheyenne is Dutch Eurasian. A lot of things get erased by the “official” narrative. Also, when people start looking for stories about Eurasians, there’s nothing contemporary.

Cheyenne: Gen X and the Millennials are pretty much missing from the story. We cannot really speak for them even though we’re part of those generations. We don’t know if they feel affected or if their friends treat them differently. We can only assume so because of what we’ve faced.

Charlene: That’s one of the things we’re trying to figure out. What is the [Eurasian] community’s current aspirations? What troubles do they face? Then we can start dealing with the issues. So it’s a survey on our part. What are Eurasians in Singapore?

Cheyenne: Tell us. We have an online survey going out!

[If you would like to participate in the survey, stay up to date at the CharChey Facebook page]

Why this project?

Charlene: We have a lot in common, so every now and then when we meet, we’re like, “Ugh! This happened to me again!”

Cheyenne: People ask me where I’m from.

Charlene: Today a primary school teacher asked me the same question. When you tell people you’re Singaporean, it’s like, “But where is your father from?”

Both: Singapore.

Charlene: Where is your mother from?

Both: Singapore.

Charlene: In terms of how we live–for example, when I go to Hong Lim Park [the only venue in Singapore where public protests are allowed]–I’m constantly on guard, because I don’t “look Singaporean”. Because of laws regulating foreign participation at Speaker’s Corner, I always feel like I’m jeopardising the cause by being there.

But it just happened that this year, after we’d submitted the proposals [for the project], a lot of things started bubbling up. Like [the swimmer] Joseph Schooling won his Olympic record… it’s reaching a saturation point.

About we,(p)rawn:

Cheyenne: The show itself is called we,(p)rawn.

Charlene: Basically one of the derogatory terms for Eurasians means shrimp. Because in the old days, apparently, we used to all sell shrimp.

Cheyenne: Not all of us!

Charlene: No, no. But there’s a stereotype. The older generation still hate it. In the younger generation, everyone’s just kind of, oh yeah, you know, that’s what we are. It’s interesting. We call it that also because when we started doing research for the show, one of the books we were reading was talking about how we were pawns in the overall scheme. It was a way for the colonial powers to integrate into society. So we like the word play on that.

Cheyenne: The show is experimental and processed-based. We are just as excited to see the final product as anybody!

Charlene: A lot of it’s based on ethnodrama, which we’re both interested in. Ethnodrama means we interview people and take those interviews as springboards, so it’s not entirely in our heads, but rather it’s based on interviews that we have integrated into a narrative structure. When we do a show like this we don’t want to be The Voice Of Eurasians. We are just two people. What we want to do is spark the conversation. And both our backgrounds are in theatre and spoken word….

Cheyenne: It’s going to be crazy.

Charlene: Once we hit November everything we’ve done might take a whole different direction, because that’s when input from other people will start coming in.

About the artists:

Cheyenne: I just graduated with an environmental studies degree. I’m trying to figure out how to connect two things I really, really enjoy into something that is well received, that people will like and understand. So I’ve been working on a mini-project called Poetic Science where I take random scientific concepts or environmental concepts and weave them into poems.

Charlene: One of my aspirations has always been to get art and poetry and performance out to people who don’t normally have access to them. So we started d:Ink [a monthly open mic poetry event run by spacer.gif]. A lot of my work actually links back to the core idea of we,(p)rawn, which is that if we don’t talk about things, we don’t know how to deal with them. We don’t have the vocabulary for it. For me, it’s always about helping people find their voices.

we,(p)rawn is showing on February 17th and 18th, at the Arts House Playden. To stay up to date with For The Record follow CharChey on Facebook.

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