Once shunned as the result of forbidden liaisons, and confined to set roles in society, Eurasians are now celebrated as models and actors, and find themselves ideally placed to take advantage of the growing commercial and cultural exchanges between Asia and the rest of the world. You might call it a Eu-turn in fortunes.
Kirsteen Zimmern is a Hong Kong-born Eurasian who has always been fascinated by the faces of Eurasians; the tell-tale signs of East and West merging to create a unique yet recognizably Eurasian whole. She has found this fascination to be common even amongst non-Eurasians: few days go by without strangers attempting to dissect her appearance to discern her ethnicity. So she has set out to create a book of portraits and interviews with Eurasians, to reveal how they see themselves today. She explains:
Much of the glory in being Eurasian lies in being different, exotic even. Revelling in our uniqueness, we are nevertheless struck with anxiety over our identity and the human need to belong to an identifiable group of people.
It was partly this contradiction which compelled me to create this book. Through the photographs, I hope to show whilst each Eurasian is unique, we all share a ‘look’ that is distinctively Eurasian, a look that lends us an ethnic identity of our very own. The tell-tale signs of our mixed blood manifest themselves more strongly in some than others – some of us look more Caucasian, some of us more Asian. But in whatever measure, the signs are there. I cannot count the number of times that someone, upon discovering that I am Eurasian, has commented that I do not look Chinese. Why should I? I am not Chinese. I am not Caucasian. I am Eurasian.
The photographs demonstrate, very visually, the result when East meets West. A slanted eye here, a high-bridged nose there. Straight hair, wavy hair. Olive skin, pale, freckled skin. For many Eurasians it is a rare day when our appearance does not invite examination and comment. Our genetic legacy appears to be universally fascinating.
Kirsteen is wrapping up the project this summer, and so we’re putting a call out to any more Eurasians who want to take part. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.