Owen: 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.
Owen is the child of immigrants - his mother is Seychellois (of African and Asian descent from the Seychelles Islands off of East Africa) and his father is white - English with Irish ancestry. Owen uses he/him pronouns. He identifies as mixed race (Black, white, and Asian). In our interview, he invites us on his identity journey as someone who is read ambiguously - an experience that mirrors so many people in our community.
Owen discussed how in early life, he let other people decide his racial identity based on how he looked. Through a process of identity exploration, he found his own voice and asserted his own identity.
Exploring your identity can look so many different ways. For Owen, it included building community by accessing more of the African diaspora, getting involved in Hip Hop, world travel, connecting with family, and partnering with someone who shares key aspects of his mixedness - By some miraculous turn of events, he met and partnered with a local Seychellois-American woman, Mary, and they have a beautiful son, Rafael. Wait til you see the painting!
Another foundational piece of his identity exploration was finding mixed community. I suppose we should mention that Owen is one of the co-founders of MidWest Mixed (MWM)! He reflected a bit about how meaningful it was to be able to connect and share experiences with other Mixed folx.
When we started having conversations with MWM, it was affirming... You have these experiences somewhat in isolation from other mixed race people who are in that ambiguous space - racially, ethnically, culturally - and you sometimes think there’s something wrong with you.
Am I doing this wrong? Am I taking up space inappropriately here? Am I denying or turning my back on some aspect of myself here?
To be in space with other mixed race folks, to see people of all different shades, cultural backgrounds, all different connections to different parts of their racial ethnic cultural identities… And for people to be like “Yeah, I also struggle with this, and I’m not sure I’m showing up right here, and I’m not sure I should be showing up at all here, people misread me here, people are trying to make sense of me this way here…”
And that was just really affirming, like oh! Ok, this isn’t just “something’s wrong with me,” this is a shared experience that is shaped by the complexity of racial and ethnic identity and also by the binary structures of white supremacy, and how boxed in, how intentional that’s been made for the creation and maintenance of power.
Those are things that over time have helped ground me - the ways I’ve struggled with this are not inappropriate, they’re just what a lot of mixed race people have to do, and there’s no perfect way to do it.
Learn more about Owen’s path into a more self-directed and empowered sense of identity when the exhibition opens at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.