In my DNA
This collage is about the essence of me taking shape even before I was born. I am a child of my time and of the values I imbibed, from a grandmother who graduated in 1922 in India, and from my parents who migrated to the UK.
The collage is built up of images and words in Bengali and English, which are the geographical, historical, cultural and ideological strands in my DNA.
The creative process of this collage has in itself been a journey of discovery, as I unravel the unconscious thoughts and conscious selection of images, painted backdrop, colour palette, written words, simulated layers and folds.
The retro style of the collage was a deliberate choice as it was popular art form in the 1950s when I was born.
The inspiring cast in my Identity drama, had remarkable stamps on their metaphysical passports. I describe, below, aspects of their lives which are presented in the collage.
1. My maternal grandmother - Sulatika Banerjee defied “purdah” to go to University a 100 years ago. She was inspired by the Suffragettes. I have included her graduation certificate from the University of Calcutta in 1922 as a tribute to her courage. In the process of creating this collage, I found a published article by her titled “My journey starts now” (In the collage, the Bengali title has been overlaid on her graduation certificate, below left of the word “University”). This was was a thrilling discovery for me, not just for being an exciting part of family history but for being a critical part of my own journey - understanding my identity.
2. My father - Anil Kumar Chanda - came to the UK on a scholarship to study engineering. His zest for life and passion for travelling is in my genes. Here I have photo of my parents holding me as a baby with the caption “Town’s First Indian Baby” which appeared in the local newspaper.
3. My mother - Supriya Chanda - came to the UK as a 20 year old girl to follow her husband. She opened my eyes to appreciate what I looked at, encouraging me to paint and draw from a very young age. Extracts from her passport and Montessori certificate are included in the collage.
4. Dr Maria Montessori - her signature is here in this collage, as her ideology shaped not just my mother’s career but in how she raised me. When Dr Montessori first trained as physician in Italy, she would say to her male detractors “ the harder you blow the higher up will I go”.
5. King George VI - I selected the stamped airmail letter and “Empire of India” passport as evidence of time and place. George VI was on the throne when my parents migrated. This visual story contains references to my birth and to the death of the Empire, with its far reaching impact not just on my identity but on millions of other individuals and nations across the world.
The backdrop has been painted as a muslin sari. Well, that is pretty much me, as muslin was valued for being diaphanous, durable and pliable. My colour palette is restrained, not a burst of intense Indian yellows or exotic pinks but a dusky pink to suggest that I am a hybrid ‘English rose’! Elsewhere - white represents light, black darkness, red the blood that flows and pale green which symbolise growth. There are layers, which suggest that some things are hidden and more will unfold. The design, graphics and recurring patterns symbolise continuity in my evolving identity led by my DNA.
I have had quite a journey in putting together this collage with around 80 pieces, some large, others really small. Each of the pieces tell a story which shaped and moulded me.