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Kenyan artist's "Identity Politics" photo essay takes on the pressure to hide one's heritage in the workplace


Kamau Wainaina is a 20-year-old Kenyan artist studying in New York. His latest project, titled "Identity Politics", is a photo essay inspired by conversations with his mother about her experiences in the workplace. In one instance, Wainaina says, his mother was called a racist remark by a co-worker, and when she responded was told by superiors to "calm down" because she was "an employee first, an African second."

"Identity Politics" is a commentary on how these pressures to de-prioritize and conceal African identities are exceedingly commonplace in Western culture. The portraits are based on three questions, 1) how African heritage may conflict with the workplace, and need be concealed, 2) how one may struggle to reconcile their African American culture while assimilating in a Western environment, and 3) how American opportunism is dishonest to foreign cultural identities.

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