Myra Greene’s response to traditional African textiles is very thought-provoking to me.
“Growing up in Harlem, I often walked past stores selling African textiles. I was …subconsciously informed that as a black woman I should have an inherent relationship to these materials. I am attracted to the fabric as material and color, but felt there was a false cultural connection…While seductive, this fabric triggers a problematic relationship for me, for I have no direct link to its symbolism. I am told I should relate to the descriptions, symbols, colors and patterns, but it is a culture that I am distinctly removed from.”
Reading this made me think back to nearer the beginning of this project, when I researched Vietnamese symbolism. It felt like a necessary step in my secondary research to inform myself of ways to represent my Vietnamese side. However, it felt strange at the time that I should have to find out the traditional symbols of Vietnam, as I am half Vietnamese so should surely already be aware of them? In the same way that traditional African fabric triggers a slightly uncomfortable reaction for Myra Greene, the need to find out about Vietnamese symbolism was a reminder of the fact that I am ‘distinctly removed’ from Vietnamese culture. The further I come on this project the more self-aware I feel about my personal issues with having dual heritage. I’m now at the stage where I need to decide how best to communicate this to the audience in the exhibition.