• Rasha Kotaiche

The Third Thing

The daily denouncer


I am a “Third Thing” as described by Negin Farsad. You know, the thing you are when you’re not exactly this and not exactly that but instead you’re a combination of it all, which doesn’t seem to be understood by many, like how can you be more than one thing? Being British-Lebanese, I have grown with 2 cultures, where one culture is slowly trying to develop to be like the other yet is battling to keep tradition and religious influence alive.

Next to becoming a digital world, cultural development is arguably one of the biggest evolving areas at hand. Migration is easier than ever, yet at the same time still very complex for some people. However, there are generations of people who have grown with multiple cultures due to migration, trying to find that perfect balance where you can be accepted from both sides, trying to feel human when others look at you weird because you’re not “completely like them”.

Cultural evolution, by definition, is the development of culture that affects the behaviour of an individual. So if you’re also a Third Thing then you must be going crazy! Of course, each person’s story is different, where some people completely immerse themself within the country they reside in and have no connection to their ethnic heritage. Then there are those trying to find a balance to appease the desires of both sides, to fit in. Then there are those simply trying to learn about all they are expected to be, so they understand and figure out who they are and what they believe for the sake of knowledge, for themself and to finally be able to breathe and speak out aloud. And to also be able to answer the question “where are you from?” without wanting to the rip the heads off the askers.

In response to the latter question, knowing what the asker would mean by it, I would always say “I was born here but I’m Lebanese, well my parents are Lebanese”; which made me realise I never fully felt British nor Lebanese. I had minimal exposure to the Lebanese culture as I was growing up, it all stayed within the house. So I always saw myself as English, until I started visiting Lebanon frequently across the past few years. When I first went back after 10 years of not visiting, there was something that I couldn’t explain, but who I am started to make a bit more sense. I began creating my work in order to learn about the country, the heritage and to learn more about myself; why had I started to feel so disconnected from my friends and from the country I was born in?

The work I make focuses on my Lebanese side in particular as I had less exposure to it and it connected a lot more to me than if I were to focus on making work in England. I not only focused on Lebanon, but also traveled to Kuwait due to having family who live there. The time I spent in Lebanon I experienced the culture and people first hand, focusing on the things and people that would make me think “this is the Lebanon I know and understand”. Such a small country with such diversity and constant cultural development. You go to one village and you will see tradition, you go to another village and you feel like you’re in the west again. This is a country with a range of religions, but all share the same culture.

The work I make in Kuwait focuses on how my family, Lebanese diaspora in another Arab country, keep their culture alive there (Levantine countries and Gulf countries do have a difference in culture), but I also explored the Kuwaiti culture and to see whether how my aunts, uncles and cousins growing up as Kuwaiti-Lebanese is any different to me growing up as British-Lebanese.

With the current battle over “Brexit” and the issues in America focusing around migration, you will have people argue that it would be at best interest of a person and their family if they “stick to their roots” and stay within “their country”. I will argue that I would have loved more direct exposure to Lebanon or simply to see my extended family more, but that’s just my story where it hasn’t affected me negatively as such. There are many people who have managed to have such a balance, where they have thrived in life and have helped develop the culture within the countries they reside in. All people should be exposed to different cultures, as this variety of cultures have been influencing one another for centuries. We all learn from one another and continuously make great things by doing so.

Personally, through learning more about both of my own cultures as well as meeting people from different countries and being exposed to an array of cultures, I happily answer the “where are you from?” question with “I’m from Doncaster, to answer what you really want to know, I’m British-Lebanese”. However, I do enjoy seeing myself as quite global as I have had this array of cultures and religions influence me in different ways.

You have your Lebanon, I have mine