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  • Writer's pictureMidWestMixed

Duaba: Within, Between, & Beyond

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Within, Between, and Beyond is a multi-layered art installation and participatory experience sharing an evolving archive of stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who identify as Mixed Race or Transracial or Transnational Adoptee. Interviews for the video portion of the installation were conducted by Lola Osunkoya, who here introduces our subjects and shares a few highlights from their stories.

Duaba self-identifies as Black, Afro-Creole, Louisiana Creole. Duaba uses he/him pronouns.

We met with Duaba in the summer of 2018, on the first day of interviews. As with all of our interviewees, I had sent a set of possible discussion topics, but wasn’t exactly sure what he would discuss. I experienced Duaba in a way that left me feeling captivated as well as convicted. He presented mixedness in identity, politicization, and community in a way that, at the time at least, we were not hearing enough about. His remains one of my favorite interviews.

It was interesting and affirming to hear about the dynamics of Creole culture, colorism, and activism, which align so much with ways we think about mixedness within more visually distinct cultures. This context informed Duaba’s sense of identity and the way he has observed and navigated the world in his travels.

The reason mixed people are made to feel they are forced to choose or can’t choose either is because of the political system of racism here. But if you go to Nigeria and you meet somebody who is Fulani and Yoruba, they’re still mixed, but there’s a history where those cultures have interacted so much that their experience is held in a different way than it is here… because here the mixing of peoples was meant to be prevented or to occur because of political purposes.

It amounts to a feeling of distress, like you have to choose or feeling you have no place in either world when really there’s no such thing as racial/ethnic purity, people are always mixing, always exchanging ideas.

What really determines who you belong to is you choosing who you belong to and what you contribute to the people you choose. That’s all there really is.

The different ethnic/racial identities we have, part of it is biological because you can’t evade your phenotype. But your phenotype doesn’t always determine the shape of your life either. And so what we really have is... our identities are languages for how we stay together. And for anyone who is of mixed heritage, who you are is really defined by - for me anyway - what you wanna contribute to the people you love. And by extension, what you wanna contribute to the world at large.

This last piece was super meaningful to me because it mirrored the basis of my grad school thesis as someone invested in the mental health of mixed people. There’s an Adlerian concept called Social Interest, which defines the idea of belonging in two parts: the feeling of belonging to a community, as well as what you contribute to that community. Many mixed people and others with complex identities struggle with belonging over the course of their lifetimes. But what happens when you shift some of that pain into ways you can connect by contributing your gifts and uniqueness to your community? Hearing Duaba talk about that piece affirmed a concept that means a lot to me.

There’s much more thought provoking content in his video! We can’t wait for you to see it at Mia. Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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