Palm trees quiver in the Caribbean diaspora. Beaches are ablaze with the warm sun as it transgresses time zones. Ripe fruit hangs languidly waiting to be picked. Precariously placed crowns of nuts and tropical flowers adorn the face of intersecting cultural identities. Reconciled and reconsidered.
Artist and ‘home-grown-immigrant’, Tiffany Smith, utilizes photography to explore constructed notions of identity. For Tropical Girls Who Have Considered Ethnogenesis When the Native Sun is Remote is a series of “fantastical self-portraits that question identity constructs and the psychological implications of iconography.”Ethnogenesis as the formation and emergence of an ethnic group reflects a desire to articulate and name the liminal space of the diaspora.
The artist grew up between cities of Nassau, in the Bahamas and Miami, Florida. As the first generation in her family to be raised outside of the Caribbean, this multinational experience had a significant effect on her identity. “From an early age, she has navigated the path between assimilation and preservation of cultural identity, ultimately creating a hybrid identity that embodies the apex of her experiences.”
In this collection of self-portraits,Smith directs the narrative as author of her own perception of blended cultural heritage. She explores the collective memory and cultural signifiers of Caribbean histories and translates these visual codes into multinational America. Often the titles frame her as a ‘tourist’ transgressing spaces of belonging. Her playful approach is very poignant, using modes of humour to allow her to reclaim visual representation.
Mango Mango 2015 is a video piece. The work features a split screen articulating dual characterizations of Smith. The one appears in full colour and the other in black & white. The piece seems to speak to levels of disassociation from culture and identity. However, through the narrative progression of the piece, the monochromatic version of herself begins to come into colour. A conceptual re-immersion of culture attained through the sensory act of eating. Mangos become a site of cultural experience.
“Sometimes we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.”
― Salman Rushdie