Mother and daughter Kim and Lamaya Simpson explore what being Scottish really means.
by KIM & LAMAYA SIMPSON
FEB 2016 // When Lamaya Simpson was bullied out of her school for being mixed-race, her mom, artist Kim Simpson, took to her art. She created the multimedia series "Exottish," which addresses how Scottish identity fragments and excludes Scottish people of color. The video below, "Projected Identity," is a part of "Exottish" and a collaboration with Lamaya. Here Kim interviews Lamaya on her thoughts on being mixed-race in Scotland and collaborating with her mom.
Can you say a little about yourself?
I'm Lamaya. I'm 12 years old and I live in East Kilbride, Scotland with my mum, my cat, and my dog. I love dancing, drama, and singing.
Describe yourself in three words.
Tall, funny, smart.
Describe your identity. How would you define it?
I am a mixed-race Scottish girl. My parents are Scottish and Nigerian, so I'm an Afro-Scot. I've lived in Scotland all my life, so I'm totally a Scottish girl. I won first place at the regional Robert Burns recitation and singing competitions. You can't really get much more Scottish than that!
What do you like about being you and having your identity?
I like that I know about two different cultures, and I like all the cool food and stuff. I like that I get to visit my Nigerian grandparents and aunts and uncles in Africa. I'm going to Nigeria for my aunt's wedding soon, and I'm really excited.
How about the downside?
I get asked where I'm from a lot. People don't think I'm Scottish because I don't look like most Scottish people. And when strangers touch my hair. It's really annoying. By the time people ask if they can touch my hair their hands are already on my head. People always think that Scottish people just have red hair, wear kilts, and eat haggis. Well I eat haggis too!
Do you think when that happens people are being racist?
Not really. I think mostly they're just asking questions because they're interested. It's just people who still have a lot of learning to do. Maybe they just haven't been around that many people of different races. It's still annoying sometimes, and it can get really weird, like when people point at me or follow me around the supermarket telling me how gorgeous I am. It sounds nice, but it's really creepy!
Has your identity changed as you've gotten older?
No, I've always been the same person and I've always known who I am. I remember when you told me that I used to point at Beyoncé on TV when I was a baby and say "Lamaya!", so I knew I didn't look like you early on. I do feel a little different than people around me, but not in a bad way. I think that just comes with being mixed-race. I'm not confused about who I am, but sometimes other people are.
Who has helped you understand your identity?
Well, you, because we learn together. Also Valerie, the mixed-race woman I did a fashion show with. We talked about some of the stuff that she went through growing up in Scotland, and she had a lot of things said to her that have been said to me. She was really nice. I kind of want to be like her when I grow up. And I like Zendaya. She’s really funny and pretty. Some people say she’s like an older version of me, and I don’t mind them saying that at all!
What do you think about my art projects that have been inspired by you?
I think they’re very good. It’s a good idea to get people talking about diversity in Scotland so that it doesn’t seem strange to be black or brown and also Scottish. It doesn't mean that you're from somewhere else.
What is it like for you to be involved?
I'm really proud of it and I like that I've helped make something that's so cool. It's good to know that there's been a really good reaction and that people are interested in talking about it and seeing the pictures. It’s helped me learn where I fit in in the world, and you've been learning lots along with me.
Did you like working on "Projected Identity"?
It was fun to shoot! I really like dancing, so I got to do what I like to do and you got to do what you like to do. I think that's why it looks good. We're both enjoying ourselves. I like all the old Scottish pictures projected on me. And I like how at the end you get to see what our family is like. But it was cold because I was only wearing a leotard and it was late at night in a big cold studio!
Do you want to be a photographer when you grow up?
Nope. I did want to be a marine biologist, but I also like advertising and want to be an actress.
You need photographers for all those careers. Maybe I'll come work for you!