spotlight: pearl low
PEARL LOW, STORY ARTIST / ILLUSTRATOR / ANIMATOR
– tell us a little bit about yourself. where did you grow up and how were you raised?
hi! my name is pearl low and i identify as blasian. my mother comes from guangdong, china and my father from kingston, jamaica. i grew up in the eastside in vancouver, bc. and was raised by my single mother. although i was primarily brought up in cantonese culture-- since my mother is chinese-- my mother tried her best to cook some jamaican food at home so i at least had some jamaican influence in my life. in the eastside at the time, all sorts of folks from filipinx, vietnamese, and indian communities lived in the neighbourhood. friends i had made from all said communities had a huge impact on how i became the person that i am today. on top of that, the neighbourhood i grew up in had tons of immigrant families. the culture that i found myself in as a whole was rooted in immigrant experiences where you were taught to work as hard as you can, be humble, and no matter your circumstances, be resourceful and try to make-do with what you got!
– what are some challenges you have faced when it comes to navigating personal identity?
one of the biggest challenges for me was learning to define and explore what it means to be black, and specifically, jamaican. growing up with my mom's side of the family in vancouver-- where 27.7% of the population is chinese and only 1% of the population is black-- i was immersed in cantonese culture but black culture... not so much. what i knew blackness to be was whatever i saw in the media. oftentimes it was stressful and confusing seeing these depictions of black people because they never resonated with my character in an authentic way and worse, tons of people around me had the expectation that i was supposed to embody that persona. of course, learning to navigate my identity when it came to being asian was also a challenge, but because i was exposed to so much more cantonese culture, it was easier to ground myself with a firm sense of knowing that i was undoubtedly, chinese. that being said, it was still difficult and disheartening at times to claim being chinese. my blackness is always put at the at the forefront when i navigate chinese spaces. i am a visible minority in my own community and when no one looks like you in your own community, there's tends to be a strong sense of exclusion that you experience from members who so visibly fit in. it's dealing with that, that made claiming my chinese identity so difficult. the constant push and pull from two sides of the chinese community telling you you'll never be chinese and the others who do say you belong. it all forces you to come back to yourself and ask the question, "so which one is it?".
– have you ever experienced someone making assumptions about your background (race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, etc.). if so, what kind of assumptions were made and how did you deal with this?
oh yes, all the time, and it's entirely dependent on my environment. in certain places i'm categorized as a more racially ambiguous person so i get people guessing all sorts of ethnicities (ie; filipix, polynesian, indian etc..) versus here in vancouver, more oftentimes than not, i'm just black. i usually just correct the person who incorrectly assumed my race/ethnicity and that's the end of that, but when a person labels me as something i'm not and i correct them and they disregard what i had said, then that's when i stop engaging with them. there's no need to convince someone that's insistent on misunderstanding you.
– on our website we define [mxd] subjects as being "in perpetual flows and shifts between a multiplicity of personas, positions, and points of interconnection". in what way do you consider yourself to be a [mxd] subject? in other words, how does complexity fit into your personal identity? or how do you dis-identify with identity labels that people impose on you?
what a lovely definition! i guess i consider myself a mxd subject based on how i constantly shift between my two cultural worlds and points of interconnection between the black and asian community. the only thing that i don't identify with *anymore* is when it comes to shifting between personas. that's something that i'm trying to do less of. in vancouver, black and asian communities do not interact very much and because of that, i find it easier to participate in both my communities separately. in the past, whenever i interacted with the chinese community, i always heavily adjusted myself and became a different person. presenting myself as asian along with being black had been difficult for me in the past-- because of anti-blackness in the chinese community-- so i just participate in the chinese community within a chinese cultural context. on the flip-side though, i find it easier to authentically express myself as an asian and black person within the black community. i'm now trying to take the attitude of how i navigate through the black community and apply that to how i interact with my chinese community. not going to lie it's still hard, awkward and scary but i'm trying to lean into the stance of being your authentic self unapologetically.
– what do you do and what are you currently working on? feel free to include any personal/passion projects you are thinking of/working on that incorporate experiences/aspects of your background.
i'm a story artist and i work primarily in animation for kid's tv but i also do illustrative work and comics! most of my art is rooted in chinese-canadian and caribbean-canadian experiences. currently, i have self-published an autobiographical comic called tension which talks about my personal curly hair insecurities, and a graphic novel that's a work in progress called lost in translation. it talks about immigrant parents and the misunderstandings and commonalities between themselves and their children. this story reflects a lot of things that i think children of the diaspora have to deal with when they are born in this country but still have battles with their parent's who do things the same way that things were done in their home country.