My Identity

By Daniel Litwin, TIWP Student

My identity is mixed. Everything about me is mixed. Mixing and being mixed has always been, and always will be in me. For those who don’t know, I am half Filipino, half White. I’ve been aware that my skin was tan since I was little, when I fell and scraped my knee, and saw that the blood was not so bright against my darker skin. This did not bother me though.

I get my darker skin from my mom. She was born in the U.S. but then moved to a small village in the northern Philippines to live with her maternal grandparents. She moved back  to the U.S. once her parents had settled and had good jobs. I don’t have many Caucasian features from my dad except part of my face shape, and the shape of my hands and feet. My dad’s side of the family is quite mixed because my grandfather’s relatives were Jews who came from other countries like Ukraine, Germany, and Lithuania.  My last name, Litwin, actually means “a Lithuanian” in Polish. My paternal grandmother’s family, however, came from Scotland. I see my mixed heritage as a benefit because I have a foot in both worlds, Asian, and European, east, and west.

Like the diverse ethnicities that make up my mixed background, I have always been exposed to a plethora of art mediums. I have seen indigenous and traditional art from Asia at my grandparent’s house and in books, and I have also been exposed to European art. I admire all styles for their uniqueness and tone. Indigenous and ancient art tends to be very blocky, and rigid, but as time progresses, it smooths out. What is even more interesting for me, is that you can see the progression of art in the architecture across regions. For example, in India, the temples and carvings feature cobras and other large snakes that grow larger, with more spikes, and teeth in Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar, and finally transform into a full-fledged dragon in Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan.

Just like my mixed heritage that defines my identity, exposure to different styles of art has defined my art style as well. When I draw, I can choose a medium or style to draw, or if I am feeling adventurous, I can combine eastern and western styles into one delicate, flowing, and multifaceted masterpiece. I use techniques from western art, like perspective and contrast, while I feature an Asian-style creature, or landscape, or vice versa, when I use the flowing brushstrokes of east Asian art to render a castle, or a ship.

In music, I have also been exposed to different genres from different countries. When I play my cello, I play classical western music from Germany, France, and Russia. I also play pop music from America, Europe, and Taiwan. What I play in my free time depends on what style I am focusing on or intrigued with at the moment. Some days I like playing smooth and slow pieces, and some days I like playing something fast and rigorous, or very expressive and modern.

One of my favorite activities, that includes a mix of music styles, is playing the national anthems of different countries. So far I have learned the anthems of the countries that define me: The Philippines’s national anthem Lupang Hinirang, Russia’s national anthem, and Germany’s Deutschlandlied. I have also learned some that aren’t really significant in my life but are still cool, like la Marseillaise from France, Kimigayo from Japan, and the Italian national anthem. Throughout my life I have been exposed to many styles of expression in art, culture, or music. This abundance of culture has allowed me to grow as a person and appreciate all of the different facets of personality and culture that make me me. In my life, mixing has both defined my physical identity, my identity as an artist, and my identity as a musician.

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