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This is Joan Lao; An Artist and Designer

July 13, 2018
Archie Lim

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This is Joan Lao; An Artist and Designer

I was born and raised in a small country in the Middle East called Bahrain. Contrary to popular belief, OFWs’ kids like me are bound to return to the Philippines after studying due to the lack of citizenship opportunities in the Middle East. I knew I’d eventually end up here.

In my first year in college, I was known as “that one girl from Bahrain.” I was then asked by a professor if I was what they call a “Third Culture Kid (TCK).” I didn’t know what it meant but after looking it up, I found that I was indeed a TCK––someone who has spent most of their formative years in a country away from their homeland. I finally found a name to my identity and sought a way to spread awareness on the confusion experienced by Filipino TCKs regarding home and identity. I regularly created art that reflected my longing to return to the desert, as well as the homesickness I felt here. Themes of sand, home, and cityscapes seeped into the portraits I made of other people and myself.
It was in 2016 when I made my boldest artwork to date: an interactive installation entitled “Tahanan.” It resembled my workspace back in Bahrain, created with paintings of my old room’s window and two sketchbooks which tackled the narrative of culture shock as a TCK. Viewers were allowed to write what “home” to them was in these sketchbooks.

The reactions I received were moving––I received messages from TCKs who caught wind of the installation, saying that they were thankful. Since then, I set out to expand “Tahanan” to reach more people like me. In 2017, I made a follow-up piece which was a website where people abroad could view the installation in full. Now, in 2018, I had completed my thesis project which allows TCKs to post their memories of Bahrain and develop a community through it, still under the same theme of “Tahanan”.

_Tahanan_ – illustration compilation – mixed media

Home is definitely still a concept I hold close to my heart, both as an artist and a person. I look forward to where this will all take me, in hopes that others like me will also come to terms with who they are, as people born from two cultures.

Email: joaneunicelao@gmail.com
Portfolio: behance.net/joaneunicelao
Instagram: @yuniowl
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