Zoë Zandwijken

Working title: "Mi no ta papia Papiamento"

I use photography as a means to explore my never ending curiosity and fascination for people and their identity. The concept of identity is layered, and consists of multiple (cultural) elements, always changing and developing. As a child from two worlds I have become more and more interested in learning about my heritage, and what it means to me. My work is inspired by my own diverse cultural experiences and reflects my search for a greater understanding about my own identity. I express this longing by capturing the vulnerability of, and my connection with the people I portray. I make my work out of curiosity, the urge to learn and understand, both for myself and for people like me; it is a love letter to my heritage.

The language they speak on Aruba, my father’s country, is Papiamento; a language I cannot read, write, or understand. It fascinates me that my father speaks a language that I do not. Language is often one of the first things to grab my attention. A language refers to a sense of belonging and connection with others and is intrinsically bound to culture. How do people communicate in general? In what ways can the development of a language over the years tell us about who we are today? What role does language have in identity formation? This project will examine these questions and focus on both personal and theoretical perspectives on the development of language.

Human body, Comfort, Toe, Barefoot, Sitting, Flooring, Floor, Elbow, Shoulder, Finger

What challenges have you faced making this work?

Visualizing something that inherently isn't visual.

How are you going to develop this project further?

I will be diving into the world of Papiamento by first having conversations with, and portraying native Papiamento speakers about the role language plays in their life.

What has the Lighthouse program done for you?

The Lighthouse program provided me with a safe space to connect with other artists, while simultaneously teaching me crucial skills to continue developing my artistic practice.

Black hair, Neck, Jaw, Eyebrow, Forehead, Chin, Eye, Cheek, Lip
Human leg, Thumb, Muscle, Gesture, Nail, Wrist, Joint, Finger
Sky, Gesture, Thumb, Finger

Zoë Zandwijken (raised in the Netherlands by a Dutch mom and an Aruban dad) invited her father Roy Zandwijken to discuss the impact of language on cultural identity. Papiamento, the language they speak on Aruba, is a language that he speaks, but she does not.

Vev Icon