I began this project with a curiosity in communication between people from different cultures. However, in order to conduct a project on cross-cultural interactions, I realised that stereotyping would be hard to avoid when trying to depict each cultural group through focusing on symbols of that culture. Can a person from Italy be represented by expressive hand gestures? Can we use a surfboard as a symbol of Australian culture? I decided that in order to avoid stereotyping, I would zoom in on a story between two individuals, so I could look at our cultural differences while still acknowledging our complex identities which include differences in age, location, interests, daily routines etc.
The story that I narrate is the personal relationship between myself, a 24-year-old girl from in South Africa, and my 86-year-old great aunt from Spain, with whom I lived for many months. Despite a Spanish-English language barrier, a large generational gap and our completely different cultures and backgrounds, we developed our systems of communicating, which has enabled us to form a deep relationship.
How do we navigate familiar and unfamiliar places?
The investigation focuses on hands – tools with which we carry out our day-to-day practices. The hands are used as a metaphor to represent our connection with the material world – the way in which interact with each other and our surroundings. How do we navigate familiar and unfamiliar places?
I expand on the research in this project through creating an audio-visual installation titled ‘Así. Así.’ In Spanish, this can be translated to either ‘like this’ or ‘like that.’ In this way, it conveys the mistranslation and miscommunication that can occur between different individuals with their distinct ways of doing things, while also showing that these different ways of doing things are essentially the same – there is no wrong or right.
This project also made me reflect on how a small micro-narrative can be an example of a much larger issue. By not acknowledging an individual within a group, and the complexity of their identity, stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice can easily occur. If social sustainability is ‘the ability of a community to develop processes and structures which not only meet the needs of its current members but also support the ability of future generations to maintain a healthy community,’ (BusinessDictionary.com, 2019) then this project can be considered as part of working towards a more sustainable world.