Third Culture - where transient millennials can explore their roots

Idea is to help people who grew up outside their homeland find cultural identity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 March, 2015, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 March, 2015, 10:57pm

How do you define "home"? Is it a sense of domestic stability? Is it the place where you grew up, or the place where you live now? These are the questions new platform and company Third Culture - which encompasses film, writing, festivals and a broader focus of cultural engagement - seeks to explore in a variety of mediums.

Third Culture's name refers to a unique demographic: those people who have grown up outside their parents' culture, whose childhoods involve jumping from city to city, and soaking up different social environments. Because of globalisation and the transient geographical nature of most millennials' careers, it's a growing phenomenon: third-culture children are part and parcel of Hong Kong's cultural fabric.

In December Harry Oram (Filipino-Maori, born in Hong Kong, studied in Edinburgh, Scotland, lived in New Zealand, and now back in Hong Kong) co-founded Third Culture with Aaron Stadlin-Robbie to fill the gap in third-culture expression. The website, which will feature most of their content, is due to be launched by the end of this month. A few months into their soft launch Third Culture is getting positive feedback and interest from people eager to be on board.

"People who are born into a third culture, who might not feel comfortable in their own environment, gravitate naturally to something more than a job or geographical location - something cultural," Oram says. "I want to create a platform to express that, but not define it."

The platform (for now just a Facebook page, but other social media outlets are in development) consists of videos produced and starring people under the Third Culture umbrella, whether it be filmmakers, actors, writers or athletes. (Hong Kong pro basketball player Duncan Reid featured in their first video.) Oram says they're about to roll out a video series, Third Culture Mums, which explores interracial marriages and parenting.

Although Oram originally imagined a video platform only, he says that he and his team - which now numbers more than 20 people - are planning an online magazine in which native and nomadic philosophy can be explored. Writers are given free rein over content, in keeping with the amorphous nature of third-culture identity.

There’s so much more to life when you share with people through cultural expressions

"We have really deep, thoughtful essays about backgrounds and cultural history and then ones like 'What is a third-culture kid's favourite biscuit?'" Oram is now seeking an editor to pull together all this content.

A film festival curated by filmmaker Faiyaz Jafri is also in the works for February 2016, and will feature shorts. "Unless you have a huge budget or you're a blockbuster, your films aren't usually shown at festivals," says Oram, an actor, producer and filmmaker himself.

"When you go into the arts, it's kind of like you've already messed up in life in Hong Kong. Even if you make it, you're one in a billion, and so Hong Kong has its challenges."

Oram, who has a role in Jackie Chan's Lunar New Year movie Dragon Blade, co-starring Adrien Brody, is also founder of HK Reels, a footage editing company, and is a writer and producer at production company Bed of Flames.

The idea of a cultural platform for third-culture kids took hold in Oram at an early age: he saw a gap in the way people in the demographic were being represented.

Co-founder Stadlin-Robbie, host of his own web series Mixed Culture Kid, also feels strongly about the lack of representation outside Eurasians, Asians and Westerners - that undefined "other".

"Aaron and I always joked that we wanted an awards show for mixed culture people," says Oram.

"I was so influenced by Bruce Lee growing up not just because of his movies but because of his philosophy; he came back to Hong Kong and did his own thing.

"When we started Third Culture, I was thinking: 'how can we better experience life through the forum of culture?'"

Although the title might seem like an exclusion of the rest of the population - first- and second-culture kids, and adults - Oram is adamant his platform will be inclusive. "Third-culture kids will get it immediately, but it's really about a sense of belonging too," he says.

"That's what home is: a place where you belong. There's so much more to life when you share with people through cultural expressions. I do it with movies, telling stories … Other people do it through art or through sport, and those are the things I'm interested in."

He has hopes of supporting young artists and musicians financially and creatively, and also to work with charities and NGOs to provide psychological services to third-culture kids. "Not knowing where you're from or where you belong can be really stressful and make someone really anxious all the time," he says.

Oram aims to target his reach-and-support system at Hong Kong and the Philippines first. "Everyone is so ready there; they have the ideas, the musicians, the artists, the energy, and they're a third-culture nation by birth."

After that, expansion to the rest of Asia and finally, globally. It's a huge ambition, but Oram and his team are driven by the philosophy that Third Culture comes from.

"I'm working on this manifesto, which might not be complete yet, but it'll say something like: 'Third Culture is to entertain, to educate and inform. We want to reach out, to nurture and promote, to champion the rights of all earthlings, to build a community.'"

As the impact of international connections increasingly pushes to the fore in culture, especially in Hong Kong, the founding of Third Culture is timely indeed.

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For more information, go to facebook.com/thirdculturetc