Black Women Thrive: Interview with Artist Pearl Y. (Fumi Chun)

Pearl Y. (aka Fumi Chun)
(Cross-posted on the Blasian Narrative).

“It wasn't so much me not knowing I wasn't [B]lack[,] but me loving who I was enough to draw inspiration from my blackness.”

As a Blasian woman of Chinese and Jamaican decent, storyboard artist Pearl Y. developed a stronger recognition of her blackness with the start of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

Recognizing and embracing blackness is one of the many topics under the umbrella of the current #BlackLivesMatter movement. What does it mean to be Black? How should blackness be represented? Who is Black? The last question is an especially touchy subject, especially for those in the Black community with a mixed race background. Some even debate the lexicon related to the mixed race community. Is a person “half black” or should the “one-drop” rule continue to define those with one non-Black parent?

Additionally, after the death of Sandra Bland, #BlackWomensLivesMatter has become a trending hashtag and discussions of misogynoir are more prevalent. These conversations place mixed-race Black women in an interesting position, especially those like Pearl who were raised by their non-Black side.

Naturally, like many other Canadian kids of various backgrounds, Pearl grew up watching American and Japanese cartoons (i.e., anime) like Recess and Hayao Miyazaki's films, which sparked her interest in art and eventually led to her profession as an artist.

However, while she was raised as a Chinese Canadian by a single mother, she realized at an early age that her identity wasn’t so simply defined.

“When I was little I knew I was different. I had brown skin, but I felt as Chinese as I was [B]lack. Growing older you come to face with society and certain ideals of what (as in people) is 'acceptable' and through meeting various people…and having media influences I kind of subdued my identity of being [B]lack just because I didn't feel comfortable.”

Although Pearl has kept in touch with her four half-siblings and other relatives from her father’s side who reside in America, her predominantly Chinese upbringing subconsciously influenced her artwork as she grew up.  Naturally, nature in addition to nurture forms a person’s outlook on the world. As Pearl grew up in a city with a large East Asian population and had mostly East Asian friends, the cultures and physical aesthetics of East Asia initially dominated her art.

“I would always draw Asian people when I started…drawing. I think…for so long I only thought that type of beauty was what made…beautiful art. Small proportions, cream coloured skin tones, etc.”

East Asia, specifically Japan, is also the source of her adorable alias.

“Fumichun…came from a joke a friend and I had about misinterpreting a Japanese lyric from this song called ‘Life Goes On’ by Chemistry. I think I sang a part of the song wrong and she was like, ‘Pearl it's 'Fumi'’…she ended up giving me the nickname Fumi and then one day she said, 'Yes, you're now Fumi-chun'. I…said, ‘You mean 'chan' [a Japanese honorific]’ and of course she was like, ‘[O]-oh...’ I just ended up keeping Chun at the end because it reminded me she also made a mistake[.]”

However, the Black Internet community spurred Pearl to explore and reexamine her views toward her Blackness. “I’m now woke, in a sense,” she said, and thanks the #BlackLivesMatter movement for her awakening and believes the American-bred campaign is relevant to her experiences in Canada.

“It led me to really see how often my society looked at me in negative ways...[and] showed me a community of people who helped me find strength in being comfortable in my own skin. And being comfortable and loving other [B]lack people [and] their blackness too. And how they matter. We matter.”

Now, Pearl is translating her sense of awakening into art. Blackness has become a beautiful source of inspiration for her as a representation of herself and others in the community. Her work is cute, bubbly, and features Black subjects for all walks of life, especially Black women. Her current crowdfunding campaign, ‘Black Girls Vol. 1’, actually started as a therapeutic collection of art, yet it progressively evolved into something more public and inclusive of the Black female microcosm of the art—namely animation—community as “it evolved into a response to the lack of [B]lack women the arts…and the lack of appreciation of [B]lack beauty.”

The campaign is fully funded, but there is still time to contribute until September 30th. ‘Black Girls Vol. 1’ will be released in January of next year, but Pearl has plans to make ‘Fumi’s Sketchbook’ a reoccurring project.

“I'm always creating new artwork so putting it into a sketchbook for people to see would be neat…I might do other Fumi's Sketchbook projects concerning different subject matters too. At the moment I'm just excited for this book to be finished and for me to make it available for the public!”

Pearl Y. (Fumi Chun) is a 20-year-old storyboard revisionist from Vancouver, Canada with a diploma in Commercial Animation. She currently works for Kickstart Entertainment, a studio that has contributed to feature films (A Country Called Home, Wolverine, The X-Men) and comics ('Preacher’). She hopes to become a storyboard artist in the future. Her sketchbook, ‘Black Girls Vol. 1’, is scheduled for release in January 2016.
YouTube: Pearl Y.
Instagram: @fumichun
Twitter: @fumi_chun
Animation Tumblr: The Art of Pearl Low
Art Tumblr: Fumiartz
Personal Tumblr: Fumichun

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