Michelle Piergoelam

The untangled tales Chapter Two ‘Songs in a strange land’

I am a photographer, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In my work, I  create visual stories based on cultural myths, dreams and memories; weaving together cultural traditions, stories, and scenery. Despite my Surinamese background, yet, until recently, I had very little knowledge of this country. My desire to learn more drove me to seek out and discover the narratives that exist in this place. With my images, I want to stimulate an imaginative and narrative-based culture that keeps the transmission of stories alive. In my photography I am seeking for different photographic techniques whilst working with elements of the night. Details become the subject as soon as the light hits them; the smallest of gestures will speak loud and clear. My most recent project, The untangled tales, was nominated for Blurring the Lines 2020, the Kassel Dummy Award 2020 and it received the second prize in the category ‘storytelling’ at the Zilveren Camera Competition in 2020.

Astronomical object, Water, Liquid, Beak

The untangled tales is an ongoing project unfolding in several chapters, that offers us an insight into the years of slavery. Through stories of that time, passed onto younger generations by way of memory and imagination, each  chapter speaks to a different topic. They are narrated from the perspective of enslaved, who, at the time, used their own ways of communicating as a strategy for survival.  Examples of this are; stories about Anansi the spider, the use of Angisa headscarfs, and rowing and working songs. Through research and collaborations with experts, I create visual stories with different outcomes. During the Lighthouse program I focused on rowing and working songs under the title: Chapter Two ‘Songs in a strange land’.

Trunk, Darkness, Leaf, Wood

What challenges did you face in the process of making this work?

“One of the challenges that I experienced was in the process of translating the story onto paper; 
I had the story in my mind but it was difficult to explain how I wanted to visualize it.” 

How are you going to develop this project further?

“I received the Makersloket fund from Stichting Droom & Daad, so over the course of the coming year I will be busy realizing Chapter Two ‘Songs in a strange land’.”

What has the Lighthouse program done for you as a maker?

“I’m grateful for the tips, tricks and masterclasses I received during the Lighthouse program, specifically, it was helpful to learn how to write a grant proposal.”

Monochrome photography, Body jewelry, Fashion accessory, Darkness, Style, Jewellery, Skin, Earrings, Ear
Gesture, Trunk

In this podcast, Michelle Piergolam and Peggy Bouva, speak about slavery and the impact of stories on this history in our present day.

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