Part 2: Interview with Hapa-Palooza Co-Founder, Zarah Martz

Originally posted on: 2011/09/08

It is 4:40pm local time and I am still walking around with a “twitter-pated”  look on my face (ala Bambi, not Twitter, which ought to age me a little). This is because I am trying to contain some of my joy from attending Mixed Voices Raised yesterday. Along with getting a shoutout from mixed veteran Fred Wah (ahhh!), part of the twitter-pation comes from meeting Anna & Zarah.  Yesterday you had the chance to meet Anna, so I am now pleased to introduce Zarah to you,  in part 2 of my interviews with Hapa-Palooza co-founders!

Zarah and her son Kaitaro visiting family in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Zarah Martz)

1. What is your mix and how do you like to identify?
I was born in Germany and lived there until I was eleven. Then my family moved to Canada. So, culturally I’m German and Canadian. My ancestry is German-Indonesian-Jewish. I identify as a person with a global heritage.

2. Tell us a little bit about your experience as mixed person on the West Coast?
Coming to Vancouver in my early twenties was the first time I identified as part Asian. It was the first time I was surrounded by other Asians, and particularly mixed Asians. Although I have only met Indonesian mixed people on very rare occasions outside of hotspots such as Bali, my many mixed Filipino friends here in Vancouver make up for it, and our mix looks very alike. I thoroughly enjoy the plurality in ethnicity and ancestry of Vancouver. A good friend of mine summed it up when he shared that his son of Indian-German heritage was “growing up colour blind”.

Zarah and her husband Daniel in Northern Thailand. (Photo courtesy of Zarah Martz)

3. What does Hapa mean to you and consequently to the spirit of the festival?
In the spirit of Hapa-palooza, we are using the term ‘hapa’ universally for having mixed heritage as individuals, families and communities. I also like it, because it is fun to use, as in “hapa … happy, mama, papa, sista, love, fun, etc!”

4. What motivates you to help organize an event like Hapa-palooza?
Growing up I did not have a sense for what it meant to have a mixed community. My family members did not share the same mixed heritage, and it was difficult to discuss my questions about identity with them. I’ve worked through it over decades now, however at times it was a struggle, especially in my early teens. I have been dreaming of creating a community for people identifying as mixed in order to share our challenges, successess, and inspiration. When Anna approached me about creating the festival, I told her I was 100% on board. Now I have a son who is more mixed than I am. I want him to grow up in an environment where having mixed ancestry and culture is recognized and celebrated. Hapa-palooza!!!!

5. What is the message you’d like festival attendees to take home with them?
Hapa-palooza celebrates being mixed through music, art, writing and film. Our festival aims to raise awareness and foster a community for people of mixed heritage. We look forward to attendees of all ethnicities and ancestries to celebrate a growing community of individuals, families, communities – and even a nation – that is increasingly mixed in heritage. On the grand scale, being Canadian pretty much means being “Hapa”, or mixed, as we all have our specific ancestry and cultures that influence our Canadian identity. Self-identified mixed heritage is also one of the fastest growing demographics in Canada.

Zarah in the homeland of her Batak ancestors in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Zarah Martz)

6. Is there something you’d each like to say to fellow Canadian mixies?
In the past I’ve always explained my heritage in fractions: I’m 50% this, 40% that, and 10% …”. Now I know in my heart that I’m 100% hapa, or mixed, and it’s this fusion that makes me uniquely who I am and is a part of what I can offer the world. With Hapa-palooza we are keen to raise awareness and build a community for people of mixed heritage. So I encourage everyone to check out, join our facebook group and fanpage as well as twitter. And we at Hapa-palooza look forward to creating links with like minded groups, like

Tee hee, thanks Zarah, right back at ya!


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