Baiqu Gonkar remembers being “just another migrant” when her artist father and doctor mother brought her from Tibet to Britain at the age of 10.
“People do not see you as an individual, or recognise your multi-layered identity,” she observes.
It was a struggle: she missed her extended family and couldn’t talk to her schoolfriends, and “had to ignore countless people calling me ‘ching chong’ while stretching out the side of their eyes with their finger. I had to explain that No, I am not Chinese, and that Yes there is a difference. No, I did not live in a tent without electricity. And No we do not eat dog, own a takeaway, or work in a massage parlour.”
Through hard work, higher education, and exposure to an international environment, “I no longer feel like just another migrant but still face the casual racism and subtle, perhaps unconscious prejudice - racism without racists.“
She has founded a gallery, Art Represent, for artists from conflict countries.
The first major show is of Malina Suliman, Afghanistan’s first street artist, whose work on the oppression of women, has made her a Taliban target.
“We can give artists a platform to sell their work, to get their voices to be heard far and wide,” says Gonkar.