Senior Thesis

25cm x 26 cm

Digital painting and Illustration

My senior thesis explores this concept of the third culture kid, focusing on the idea of a perceived disconnect between oneself and their home culture or the culture of their residence. This idea was inspired by a recent trip back home to Zimbabwe, where I felt like an outsider within my own household. Despite understanding Ndebele, I am not able to speak it fluently, leaving me with an immense barrier between my sense of self and my home culture. This experience reminded me of conversations with friends who also felt similarly in regard to trying to fit into their respective cultures. My subjects are youths who also share two or three different cultures, and feel this disconnect through language, culture, religion, etc. I explore this push and pull of identities through digital illustration, animation, sound, and sketches. My first love is drawing; thus, I chose to digitally illustrate all of my friends. I focus on the perceptible details of the face, using digital brushes that emulate colored pencils in a nod to my sketches.

 

My animations are to be viewed as a digital sketchbook, a doorway into my subconscious as I contemplate my own cultural identity in tandem with others like me. Through surrealist illustrations and my mix of color and pattern, I lead people through how I process information and the spaces I inhabit. Though not directly linking to the portraits of my friends, the animations still explore the theme of identity and processing our interactions with others whilst questioning our own occupancy of spaces. The illustrations explore the relationship between one’s identity and culture, and whether it is possible to separate the two. The figures are in the foreground, with tangible elements of their cultural identity intermingling in the background. The animation, on the other hand, reflects my own personal journey with assimilating into both the Motswana and Zimbabwean cultures, and how my assumed identity doesn’t entirely fit into either. Viewers watch as my character navigates scenes that address my inner battle to place myself within either of my cultures. Through these animations, viewers are transported into the vulnerable liminal space between the physical manifestations of a cultural identity and the psychological toll that a disconnect can have on the individual.

 

This disconnect with one’s culture leads me to the following questions: what do I gain or lose from questioning my identity? Am I othering myself due to feeling uncomfortable with my own mother tongue – the way it twists and contorts syllables into incomprehensible sounds to my ears? Do I actually, secretly loathe my cultural identity – how “different” it is? How much the food smells? How even at a young age, I struggled to twist my mouth into the shapes of whole vowels, uttering quiet murmurs when spoken to in Ndebele? How easily English came to me and how I excitedly absorbed all things non-Zimbabwean…only to now long for the cultural currency received from shaping my tongue around Ndebele. Whilst my thesis addresses these thoughts, I still leave the door open for further exploration. Culture is not a set object but rather an amorphous entity that transforms the longer we are exposed to other cultures. The amount of cultural identities one can accumulate is endless, yet I still return to the culture that surrounded me during my childhood and adolescence. Thus I am still left straddling the ever-widening divides between Zimbabwean, Motswana and British.