‘But, where are you actually from?’
Entered in the Archibald Prize, 2022
This self-portrait is my attempt at exploring the hybridity of my identity as a Sri Lankan-born Australian. I’ve lived in Australia for nearly all of my life, but I know that if someone asks me where I’m from what they really want to know is how I got to this country. I like to tell them the suburb I live in and see how long it takes for them to say ‘but where are actually from?’ because the conversation usually ends up there.
In The Location of Culture (2004), Homi Bhabha defines this hybridity as a non-essentialist notion that does not call for a universally pure culture that can be studied or returned to. Bhabha sees ‘hybridity’ as a constant intermixing of new and disparate elements. This artwork depicts the modern Sri Lankan woman, identifying her as a mixture of the pre-colonial identity and the identity created through colonial intervention.