Na Cozinha da Minha Avó (In My Grandmothers Kitchen)
“I feel it slipping away. No matter how hard I tried, I could never reach you. Now it’s too late. I miss you.”
My grandmother’s kitchen was the only place where I felt like I most belonged to my Portuguese culture. It’s where the traditional food was made and where conversations and stories were shared in the mother tongue that I could never really understand. It’s also the place where I feel the most regret having not made a concerted effort to embrace who we are. When my mother and grandparents landed in Canada from Portugal in the 60s, they looked forward to new experiences and opportunities. The passing of my grandparents’ and the sale of our family home where my memories began acted has as a catalyst for me to reach back in order to understand who I am, and to process the grief of lost opportunities.
The Azulejo tile is a staple ornamental art form in Portuguese culture with its glazed porcelain white and blue frequently depicting story and history. In my pieces, I have UV printed archival photographs and cyanotype on ceramic tiles, mimicking the traditional form of the azulejo as an effort to invoke the tradition of my ancestors. My work ranges from the traditional, to domestic, and ultimately the contemporary uses and patterns of the ceramic tile art as an analogy of the changing time.
By way of archival photographs, collage, and symbolic references to my split Canadian and Portuguese identity, I’m investigating the intersection of my constructed identity, the acculturation of my family, and memories of my intergenerational relationships in order to reconnect with the people and culture I came from. Ultimately, I present collage and tile murals on mounted and grouted boards to rebuild my sense of belonging with my culture and family, and to come to terms with the grief I feel having lost an opportunity to understand the history of my family and the people I’ll never know.
I’m a Toronto-based photographer of Portuguese descent working across lens-based mediums. In my artistic practice, I emphasize place, identity, and belonging through the use of archival photographs. Through these images, I’m looking for meaning and understanding of who I am and where I came from. As a child of a first generation immigrant, I feel as if I’m constantly drifting further and further away from my culture. I grieve for the lost time in which I could’ve spent with my grandparents and extended family, and am often left wondering about the person I could’ve been.
I’m inspired by the artistic practice of Zineb Sedira, particularly her piece “Mother Tongue” (2002), which successfully articulates the language barrier between generations of immigrant families. Portuguese-Canadian photographer Danny Custodio and his work with Azulejo tiles, as well as his Flower Carpet series has helped me better understand my hybrid perspective as a Portuguese-Canadian.