African Singaporean Artist Reveals She Was Discriminated by Her Own Asian Relatives

An emerging half-Chinese, half-Ghanaian artist in Singapore has shed light on her own experiences of racial discrimination in the country — including from her own relatives.

Keyana, 17, first appeared in the public eye as a model three years ago. In May, she released her debut song “Save It”.


Raised mainly by her Chinese mother, Keyana has never truly explored her Ghanaian heritage. The fact that she looked different subjected her to countless instances of microaggressions growing up.

While she was close to immediate family members, some distant relatives made her feel alienated. She recalled some of them calling her “Orh Lang” during Chinese New Year gatherings.


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serial lover

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“Orh Lang,” as Keyana came to understand, is a derogatory, Hokkien Chinese term for someone who is Black.

“I have a Chinese name and they add nicknames in front of it, or behind it, just because they felt like it was funny and they would just joke about it and laugh,” she told the South China Morning Post.


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Keyana’s mother always had her back in such situations. But as she grew older, she had to deal with more of them on her own.

For one, breaking into Singapore’s modeling industry as a Black woman is no easy feat — she had fewer opportunities available.


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gardens by the bae 😚

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“I did feel unimportant and neglected when I started modelling. I faced closed-minded people who weren’t open to coloured models, let alone an African model. The jobs I get are very limited,” Keyana told SCMP.

Despite the challenges, Keyana persisted. She eventually signed with a local agency called Mannequin Studio, which has landed her in magazines such as Icon (Singapore) and Glamour South Africa.


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finally, beauty work w @zhiffyphotography for @glamour_sa 💖

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Last year, Keyana made headlines after slamming the use of the N-word by non-Black Singaporeans. She has expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and even started her own campaign called “Our Voices,” encouraging Singaporeans to become allies against racial bias.

“I want to create a platform and forum for the African voices in Singapore and to shine the spotlight on the African community here. But I also want to encourage and educate Singaporeans to speak up on the matter — to tell them that it’s not okay to use racial slurs and to go forth and sign the anti-racism petitions. Most importantly, we need to show our support to the African-American community and everyone else fighting for black lives through peaceful protests and petitions,” she said, according to Female Singapore.

Keyana has faith in her generation, which, she believes, is now in better position to speak out and make social changes.

“The younger generation is definitely way more vocal and possesses a stronger sense of activism today because of the exposure social media has given us. We are way more plugged in to events happening around the world, and since most of us can easily create a platform, we can also easily speak up and share our thoughts and views on current issues,” she said, according to Female Singapore. “For that, I’m very thankful because now we can help stand up for what’s right and make changes; and get the right information out when times get tough.”

Feature Images via @heykeyana (left, right)

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