23andMe: A celebration of identity

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

The concept behind this project was to address an area of my life that I needed to deeply consider. In my personal life, I had an overwhelming feeling to stop and consider who I am as a person; to appreciate my existence and understanding my identity, family history and heritage. Because I am a photographic artist, I felt compelled to question and discover my dual heritage (South African and British) and document and express my findings through the medium of photography. My project incorporates topics around; ‘race’, identity, family history, religion, equality, history, science and culture. All represented as metaphors in photographic form.

I see my practice and my images as a window into my psyche: a visual embodiment of my thoughts, emotions and experiences. I am neither wholly British, nor wholly South African: I am caught in a chasm of cultures. I was born in Southern Africa but immigrated to the United Kingdom at the age of one. Being raised by South African parents but growing up around British culture (Also known as a: “Third Culture Kid”).

My body of work is in complete opposition to apartheid (separation), racism, segregation and the ideological construct of ‘race’ - it speaks of togetherness, unity and embracing culture; a stand and protest and statement against these ludicrous ideologies. My digital artworks are a celebration of; life, hybridity, diversity, “otherness”. In short: embracing my ethnicity.

Perhaps my project takes on another dynamic - incorporating and underpinning religious notions to express the idea that all mankind are equal: “He has made from one blood, every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth...” (Acts 17:26). This project is an acknowledgment of lineage, celebration of life and how although culture may in some ways separate us we all share a common connection as humankind, as earthlings: “ were made out of soil, and you will once again turn into soil” (Genesis 3:19).

This project re-appropriates religious language, it rejects the use of religion to back up the dogma of apartheid. The objective of the project is to; reclaim and reframe the use of biblical notions to represent interconnectedness with both natural landscapes and cultures. This leads me to pose a question, to you the reader: What is race? Is it an illusion? An ideological construct used to manipulate, divide, and deceive. Or is race something real? (Back, L. Solomos, J)

The topic of ‘race’ was a taboo subject within Southern Africa, not openly discussed or spoken about and therefore, much of my family history has been buried and lost. As a researcher and photographic artist who is exploring identity; drawing on speculative assumption (based on fragments of family knowledge) was an adequate starting point however, this was not sufficient for closure and my sense of belonging. I leant into the power of science to uncover my past and give me facts about my lineage, taking a DNA test via the company 23andMe. With the hope of giving me closure and begin to solidify my sense of belonging.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” - Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream” is something I hope my project can highlight and express in a visual language, and aid in transforming the “dream” into a reality.

Experience the sounds of South African and British culture as it takes you on an audio journey of the countries

Click on the clips below to experience an audio of identity

©Jade Veale Photography These audio/videos are not to be downloaded, shared or reproduced. They remain the property of Jade Veale