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“I am Palestinian” (فلسطينيه انا )

Emmi Boyle

Artist Statement

My current practice is deeply influenced by my heritage and investigates themes of cultural identity, acculturation, and intragroup marginalization through the processes of learning and unlearning. As a bi-racial individual of partial Middle Eastern descent and a first generation Canadian, my work evokes an imagined space of my homeland, Palestine. Growing up in an excessively white-dominated society and as one of the very few coloured children in my school, I was exposed to national issues of ethnic identity at a young age. At home I was shielded from the perpetual and undisputed tragedies of Palestinian people, and took on the accultural attitude and behaviours of my mother and her siblings, who immigrated to Canada as very young children. Because of my experiences as a child I tended to lean into my “white-ness” and separated myself from my ethnic origins. Relative to my current studio practice, the methodology of unlearning requires me to step outside of and re-frame the mental paradigm influenced by cultural conditioning. I set into motion my ideas through interdisciplinary experimentation with mediums such as video performance, installation, and photography, and am drawn to the use of culturally-rich material such as visual language and textiles to transcend the boundaries of identity and reflect a multicultural perspective. Recent works incorporate Arabic script and traditional fabric as catalysts in connecting to my cultural roots. In the 2021 exhibition Manifold, my piece “I am Palestinian” aims to share the intensely personable process of discovering and absorbing my Middle Eastern and Palestinian heritage. The repetitive action of writing in arabic script as well as the motion blur of the print portray a sense of urgency in reconstructing my identity. The connection between my identity and skin colour is emphasized through the lack of colour present in the piece exclusive of my skin. In the practice of educating myself and fostering a more diverse modality of thinking, I am also interested in creating space for viewers to locate inherent and unconscious perception biases and recognize the potential for unlearning and relearning. Through these explorations as an artist and individual I am seeking to continue further uncovering my ethnic roots and ultimately reclaiming my identity.

You can see more of Emmi’s work on her instagram: @emmiboyle

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