Visopiano Sanyü is Naga, an ethnic group straddling the border of India and Burma, and Australian. But Visopiano grew up mainly in Melbourne, not Nagaland, so Visopiano feels that some people both within and beyond the Naga community see her as ‘unauthentic’ as she does not speak the language.
As a very young child, she had a basket like other girls in Nagaland. It was traditionally used to carry wood and as a toy to play with. This basket which is on display in the exhibition links Visopiano to Nagaland. It is a symbol of her ancestral heritage, an object she can touch and hold while contemplating another life, had things been different. It represents her ongoing search to reconcile the different parts of her identity.
Visopiano Sanyü's story
My name is Visopiano Zokimi Sanyü, Visopiano is from my father’s side, it’s Angami, which is a tribe, a Naga tribe, and Zokimi is from my mother’s side, it’s a Mizo name.
My family moving to Australia, has definitely formed who I am today. I speak now with an Australian accent, so obviously that’s one thing, but I truly feel Australian. I moved here when I was quite young, so I guess that’s part of it, but I’ve also integrated quite well into a certain aspect of Australian society, and that hasn’t necessarily happened, with my two brothers, so I feel very grateful to have moved here actually, and specifically to have moved here as well, not just to have grown up here and been here my whole life. I really like that different aspect, to me, the fact that I came from somewhere else and I have that experience and I that I also have the richness of this culture.
I feel that I’m at the very front of Australia, you know, and I feel like a lot of the other young Australians, these days, you know. We all love to travel, and we all love to take on different aspects of different cultures and you know, music, everyone loves to know music from different countries and things like that, and it’s very much that idea of a global citizen, that I mean that’s very popular nowadays and that’s where I kind of fit in, I suppose.
I have had, growing up, and not so much now but especially a couple of years ago, this fear that I wouldn’t be accepted, by people back home, because they’re authentic, and I’m not. And the closer I get to the day that we go back home I think the more relaxed I am, about that, especially with my mother’s advice, like I said before, that I am as much as I want to claim I am, you know, from either heritage, from Mizo or Naga, and the fact is that they, I mean my family for example, back home with my clan, will only want to claim me in return.