Doodling on Passports
Exploring identity through artwork.
For this duet-themed column, I invited my daughter Isla to sit down with me. We’re both dual Canadian-British citizens. We talked about an image from Isla’s art portfolio, about exploring identity through art and the complexities of choosing how we express our senses of belonging.
Isla: My high school art project focuses on my identity as a teenager with dual citizenship. I explored what being an immigrant and a child of two cultures means to me as I grow up. The idea of being stuck in limbo or pulled between two identities was very prevalent; I used a lot of contrasting ink in my art to explore visual as well as thematic contrast. In each composition I produced, I aimed to include messages in English, French and Welsh to symbolise the languages I speak and the nationalities in my immigrant-hood.
Katie: I love this work and am so glad that you’re happy to share it with the Christian Courier community. I like your vivid use of colour and the sense of journey you convey. Can you tell me a bit more about what the concept of journey means to you?
Isla: It’s interesting you mention colour because I knew I’d be using a lot of red from the start of the project. It’s a key colour in both the Canadian and Welsh flags and I’ve noticed both cultures use red at sports matches, for example, to show national pride, which I think is a really cool thing for both countries to share. In terms of journey, I think the zig-zag line across the centre is reminiscent of a map, and its constant movement doesn’t stop at the edge of the page.
Katie: When I look at this image, I am struck by the maple leaf you wear around one eye. This feels to me like a statement about the relationship between identity and perspective.
Isla: Yes! I’m only wearing a maple leaf around one eye because, as a young immigrant, I’m not seeing the world wholly through one perspective of nationality, but by at least two at once.
Katie: I hear the words of Christ echoing here, reminding us that though we have been sent into the world, we are not of the world. How does the question of belonging sit with these ideas of dual nationalities?
Isla: Ah, but can we truly belong anywhere?
Katie: Spoken like my philosophical teenager! I want to invite Augustine into the conversation now, who’ll tell you that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.
Isla: And I’d like to invite Philip Pullman, who in his book series His Dark Materials, tells us that in order to become citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we have to build it here on Earth, in our hearts and in our communities.
Katie: I love setting more places at the table. You pass the cookies, I’ll make another pot of tea.