Mohuya Khan

Thu Jul 09 2020 04:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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Growing up in Long Island, I silenced my voice and my identity to fit in with my surroundings. In school, I became more and more ashamed of my name and background. Teachers would look at my name when taking attendance and with a nervous laugh say, “I’m going to have a hard time pronouncing this one!” I would laugh along and say, “It’s just Mou.” Some teachers would even say, “I'm not going to even try with this one.” Their reluctance to even attempt to pronounce my name correctly made me madder. I started calculating when I was next so I could save them the struggle. My cultural identity and voice were erased because teachers refused to acknowledge me by my full name. My nickname inadvertently lent itself to losing and hating my identity.

When I started college in New York City, it was comforting to see people who looked like me. During my last semester, I introduced myself as Mohuya for the first time in 21 years. I realized that it’s not my duty to make others feel ‘comfortable’ with my name and identity. I was finally confident with my Bangladeshi roots and began to embrace my identity as a Bangladeshi American woman.

I’ve made art from a very young age but would always lose my passion and drive due to a lack of inspiration. Over the past year and a half, I’ve regained my love for art through my culture. All of my artwork focuses on the history of Bangladesh or the strength of Desi women. I created @labyrinthave to bring awareness to the struggles that many Bangladeshis face, highlight the power of women, and give Bangladeshis a voice. Representation is so important. I became the representation I never had.

As an artist and an aspiring educator, I feel that it’s my responsibility as a Bangladeshi American woman to teach people about the history of our rich culture and to help others embrace their own unique culture.