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  • Sarah Lao

2020 Microgrant Winner: Kwan-Ann Tan

Due to COVID-19 and the extenuating situations of 2020, we launched our inaugural BIPOC microgrant opportunity in September and received an overwhelming amount of interest. We were humbled by the talent of our applicants, and the heartbreak we felt at not being able to fund all these immensely deserving creators has only strengthened our resolve to support our creative community in every way we can going forward.

This year, we are honored to announce KWAN-ANN TAN and SNEHA SUBRAMANIAN KANTA as our two microgrant winners, who will each receive $100 and the publication of their portfolio in our ISSUE II. Here, read Kwan-Ann's discussion of her work.

Tell us about yourself and who you are as an artist.

"My journey to becoming an artist is probably a familiar one for BIPOC individuals—obsessed with fitting into Western narratives, growing up having only written about white people and their cultures. But in the last few years, having learnt more about my own country, Malaysia’s history, I’ve embraced the culture of my home country and have begun to truly write what I know, focusing on little-told narratives from my home country. One criticism that I received from a white person on my writing a few years ago left a deep impression on my writing. They said: ‘Why do you include foreign words in your stories? I notice you write a lot about these foreign places in English, but are you just including these for diversity points?’ The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. What that person didn’t know was that for years, I only wrote about white characters, in random Western cities that I had never actually seen before, chasing approval and acceptance from Western cultures. In my work now, I strive to foreground the integrity of experience and narrative in writing, to question our ideas of authenticity, and present my culture in as naturalised a way as possible. As a writer, I want to show the world that the English-speaking world is privileged to have our stories, our voices translated to them. It’s a reminder that there are things bigger than the West and English, a whole world of untapped literary excellence they cannot even begin to imagine. My work not only focuses on portraying Malaysian culture, but seeks to subvert the colonial narrative that dominates most of the Southeast Asian literary canon. It aims to examine our relationship with our colonial history, how it still influences our society, and why we are unable to let it go.​"

Find Kwan-Ann at or on Twitter: @KwanAnnTan


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