Yesterday I was in Brooklyn, I went to see my installation, Exorcism of the last painting I ever made, at the Faurschou Foundation.
It was made in 1996. The remnants of locking myself in a room in a gallery in Sweden for three and a half weeks painting naked, with fisheye lenses, so people could look in. Anyway, while I was looking at the work I saw this drawing of my mum and dad.
I remember at the time always thinking it looked like a wanted poster. Which made a lot of sense because as a child I went through long periods of time missing both my mum and my dad. We didn’t have a normal family, in fact in lots of ways we never had a family.
In all my millions of photos, I only have about three or four of us all together. I cannot remember one time in my entire life where we all sat at a table together and ate. The only meals I can remember us eating together as a family were on the roadside, during our long drives to Istanbul.
My dad was a brilliant cook, he could cook an entire meal on a tiny flame from a gas bottle.
My dad was Turkish Cypriot. He came to the UK by boat in 1948 on a £10 ticket.
He was originally on his way to Australia but after stopping in London to change ships, he received an urgent telegram from his cousins who had already settled in Melbourne saying “ENVER DONT COME, YOU WON’T GET IN YOUR SKIN IS TOO DARK”.
So those few words decided my dad’s fate, he was to stay in London.
My dad had had no proper education, only two years at Koran school. His mum died of typhoid when he was 11.
Then, after picking up an English lady’s hat that had blown away in the wind, he was given a job as house boy.
This is where he learnt to read and write and speak the strangest English.
Although my dad was Turkish Cypriot, he grew up in a Greek village. His face was very dark, and his accent was Greek when he spoke English.
It was an anomaly. His grandfather had been a slave, captured and kept by the Ottomans from the age of 13 till he was given some sheep and his freedom in around 1900.
He was Nubian and like many former slaves at the time he was known as a black Turk.
My mum and dad first met at Heathrow airport in 1948, they were both married but they started an insane affair. Totally out of control.
It ended in the early Seventies after my mum hadn’t seen my dad for weeks and she wouldn’t let him in the house. She eventually opened the top window and screamed: “No Emin, I won’t let you in till you tell me where you have been”. He shouted back: “I’ve been f***ing my wife”, and that was the end of that.
I’d go weeks and weeks and months without seeing my Dad.
My mum came from the East End, but her family were Gypsies, English Gypsies from Warwickshire. I only found this out in 2011. It was funny because suddenly my whole life fell into place. I felt stupidly, fantastically proud of my ancestry.
The reason why I’m explaining all this is because in 1963 when my mum was heavily pregnant, she was spat on in Hendon high street and called n****r lover .
Then after my mum gave birth to my twin brother and I, we were not only referred to as mulatto babies but also as bastards because my mum and dad weren’t married.
This world can be a cruel hateful place. My mum always told us we were born out of love.
Tracey Emin is an artist.