Is My Art Only Authentic When It Is Related to My Exotic Origin?

April 17, PRAGUE—The following is an excerpt from an upcoming original theatre piece called ‘So, Where Are You Really From?’, a minimalistic composition of reflections on the issue of identity. Created by second-generation Vietnamese immigrants in the Czech Republic, Hong Nhung Dang and Huyen Vi Tran (me).

Nhung: If I were Czech, I wouldn’t have had to deal with not being able to spend a night at my boyfriend’s house—Vietnamese girls don’t do that. There are times when I’m just so scared of my parents that in order to sleep at home – as they would wish for me to behave – I’d rather drive after four beers than spend a night at my friend’s or, God forbid, boyfriend’s place.

Vi: I’d be able to date without the guy having to face questions as to why he won’t find himself a ‘normal Czech girl’.

Nhung: At least for a short while, I wouldn’t have to feel as if I’m balancing in between two worlds. I wouldn’t have to explain to the one world why the other one is the way it is, or that not everything is just black and white.

Vi: Vietnamese culture is full of rules that dictate how a person is supposed to live his life. How he/she is always to lead by example. How every individual’s failure becomes a failure for the entire family. Many decisions I make in life come from the innate need of pure recession. Sometimes, I am not even sure whether I do things because I actually want to do them, or because I just seek to be different. The concept of ‘normal’ pisses me off. ‘Normal’ means that my life has been somewhat pre-written by someone else. But I declined to play the part because I found the script boring after having read through it once. It’s just like a series that is cancelled right after the pilot because no one would watch it except for the friends and family of the cast. But I wanted to win an Emmy Award.

Roman Kučera’s comment under a YouTube video (2016):
I welcome all foreigners from the former Soviet Union to the Czech Republic. We are very similar when it comes to mentality and habits. They soon pick up on the Czech language, and they truly appreciate our country. It’s the Vietnamese immigrants who I’m not comfortable with. I’m not racist, as some of you idiots have hinted at in this discussion, but I’m definitely not cool with these Viet drug smugglers, fake brand dealers, weed planters and weed salesmen, and also tax dodgers. And hey, let’s face it, we’re definitely not Asians… So that rice-eating slant-eye in the video really cracked me up. Come on, do you really think we have more things in common with Asians than East Europeans? Cause I sure as hell don’t. I really struggle to understand why I should respect little yellow monkey-like people with whom we don’t share a single event in our separate histories, and who came to our motherland just because of a vision of a ‘better life’ for them. You sneaked your way in during the Communist era, and you keep on tricking your way around. After all, it is thanks to the Communists that they even emerged in Czechia in the first place, and when they were told to leave after the Velvet Revolution, Vietnam suddenly had no money to bring them back. What a coincidence. It is only thanks to a few idiots that they were even acknowledged as an official minority here. And the term ‘Czech Vietnamese’ is just as ridiculous as the term ‘Gipsy’. Let’s just keep it at ‘Vietnamese’. Thanks.

For as long as I can remember, all of my bigger creative projects were, in one way or another, linked to my Vietnamese roots. After five years of questioning my own identity, my horizons are finally broadened – identity can also include aspects of one’s personality, and not a single person is only defined by his/her nationality. Finally, I come to terms with my origin, and I set myself free to explore other issues close to my heart, all of which make up my identity. Hi, my name is Vi.

We’re playing this English-friendly piece on Sunday, May 21, and also Sunday, May 28 in Prague. In the meantime, feel free to join our dance classes (link updated in Sept 2017).

Written by Huyen Vi Tranová.