Eugyeene Teh

What do you do in your day-to-day life?
I am a designer and theatre maker. My work, in close collaboration with some of Australia’s most exciting artists, (including queer theatre outfit Little Ones Theatre) regularly challenges the patriarchy, works towards decolonisation, and advocates for and supports underrepresented minority identities, particularly people of colour and the queer community.

Image © Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Why do you do it?
It feels natural for me to be doing this – it’s something I have done for a very long time. It might be an obsession, and a lot of very hard work, but I allow myself to indulge in it because it is my life force and I enjoy (most of) it. Advocating for my people is important because artists have very influential voices, and it really is our responsibility to use it, and use it well.

What do you love about the city you live in right now?
Having gained perspective from extensive travels for work, I’ve really started to appreciate Melbourne’s rich, thriving world-class cultural scene. Being an artist in this city, we have extraordinary support and influence from peers, unparalleled opportunities to present work and we can reflect thoughtfully on why we do what we do.

What's the best thing about being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Within the community, I worked with and made so many great friends that I now consider my family, in lieu of my unsupportive family back in Malaysia. I feel like this family has embraced me for who I am and has nurtured me as a human being, giving me confidence to move forward in life with a joyous sense of self and liberation.

In your opinion, what is the most misunderstood thing about the community?
I think that people outside the community think that we are very different, but we are actually just as diverse, fun, complex, and sophisticated as anyone else.  

Do you have an LGBTQIA+ icon/spokesperson that you look up to and if so, what do you love about them?
I’ve had the honour of working with artist William Yang, who was one of those Australians who really defined the queer culture back since the '70s, when he infiltrated queer spaces like gay saunas to document their lives through photography, and present them to the rest of Australia. My admiration for this comes from this deep understanding of how difficult it is to be Asian within a very white-dominated gay culture that both discriminated against and vilified people of colour. Imagine the betrayal of being oppressed by your own people! He was able to present the community in all its truth and glory by rising above it all, owning it and slaying it!

How do you define happiness?
This is such a difficult question. I think it’s a very elusive thing. Sometimes you work extremely hard for it and sometimes it surprises you in very simple ways. 

Are you happy with your work/life balance?
I always seek balance in everything I do, although I must say this one is a constant battle. In doing work that gives me fulfilment, the occasional tipping over doesn’t seem so bad.

If you could travel back in time for a day, where would you go?
I would love to go back to ancient China, observe the sophisticated Chinese civilisation and its established culture of art and tradition and philosophy long before the vilification, long before the Yellow Peril, long before the colonisation, long before the Opium Wars when the English cheated their way into the country, long before tea and pottery and long before white people even figured out how to pick their noses.

What is the best lesson you've ever learned?
One day, as I was fitting my friend Moira Finucane, she was talking about the tragic defunding of the arts and suddenly looked down at me and said ‘the most important thing is to connect with others!” 

What is your spirit animal?
My cat, Gaffer Teh, who is black as night.