Posted on Feb 13, 2012
by Melissa Aytenfisu.
In this series, I have created seven self-portraits, which delve into the issue of racial mixing... more »
In this series, I have created seven self-portraits, which delve into the issue of racial mixing in the current social landscape of the Canada. As a mixed person growing up in Edmonton, Alberta I have been asked countless times, “where are you from?” It is a simple question that often starts a conversation on race and racism, ethnicity, color, genetics, family, etc. Sometimes the conversation extends to debates on psychology, politics and any number of social issues.
As a mixed person of black and white parents I have been asked whether I am “Brazilian, Spanish, Caribbean, Haitian, African, Hawaiian, Belgian, Native Indian, Portuguese, Colombian,” just to name a few. Rarely has someone been able to pin point my exact mix as Ethiopian/ Canadian. I find it fascinating that my physical appearance can generate so many conversations and many other mixed people I have talked to have experienced a similar phenomena.
I have photographed myself in the cultural dress of different countries of the world in order to create a series of artworks that question identity. In each image I have the same expression, the same lighting, very little make up, and the same proportions. The only thing that changed was the costume. This method was used in order to demonstrate how alike all human beings actually are, despite societal pressures that try to focus on differences between races. By using a mixed person as the model, the idea of homogeneity and similarity between races is highlighted. I transposed the images onto photos of tree roots and I manipulated the transparency of the portraits so that the roots of the trees shine through the skin and hair of the model. This technique invokes the symbolism of tree roots, identity and the ability of mixed people to identify with roots from different places.
The reality is that human beings are more genetically similar between races than within races, a point that should be emphasized as often as possible. In an age where skin color is becoming less and less important, racial mixing is going to happen more and more. In a globalizing world, people of different skin colors are increasingly finding themselves living side by side. Racial misconceptions are being broken down faster and faster, making way for a world where the concept of ‘race’ could eventually be eliminated completely, allowing for more harmony in the world. less «
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