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Self Portraits of an African-Canadian Dressed as Her White Ancestors Explores Her Mixed Heritage

Stacey-Tyrell

Brooklyn-based photographer Stacey Tyrell’s series Backra Bluid is a dramatic investigation of the artist’s own mixed heritage and the colonialized experiences of non-whites. As an African-Canadian, whose family most recently hails from the Caribbean, she is brutally aware of the English/Scottish/Irish blood in her veins—the ubiquitous reality lived by people who are labeled as “black” in the West.

Tyrell poses herself as women and girls of various ages, dressed in the outfits of her white ancestors. She displays ambiguous racial features achieved through an elegant combination of lighting, costuming, make-up and digital retouching. The images are inspired by formal Western painting, a nod to the imperialism to which the project refers.

Drawing from the self-portraiture tradition of Cindy Sherman and Niki S. Lee, she combs public records for historical data to add dimension to her characters, such as names carefully curated from Scottish baby registries and the US Social Security Administration. The series is tinged with discomfort, anger and shame, sentiments that are repeatedly mirrored in the cold stares and tense facial expressions of her characters.

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

Stacey-Tyrell

Stacey-Tyrell

Stacey-Tyrell

Stacey-Tyrell

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

Stacey_Tyrell_Photography

This post was contributed by photographer Keren Moscovitch.

  • Adiaha

    The continued obsession some members of the African Diaspora have with whiteness is disturbing to say the absolute least. I am confused and annoyed by the need for any darker skinned person to imagine themselves as Caucasian. It puts out for the world to see the numerous ways in which white supremacy has taught us as a group to hate ourselves. Why can’t being Black be enough?

  • http://sandiegotempleweddings.com San Diego Temple

    Interesting concept.

  • Randy

    As someone who is of mixed Canadian/Caribbean descent, I am baffled how the term “African-Canadian” is consistently misapplied, particularly by Americans.

    Isn’t an African-Canadian is someone who was born in Africa and became a naturalized Canadian citizen? She is of direct Caribbean descent so myself and others think the term should not applicable to her.

    If Black Americans identify as African-American that is their choice. Every person that I know who is dark skinned thinks the label “African-Canadian” is inappropriate – but not derogatory though.

    Black Canadian – or a Canadian who happens to be black – seems the most sufficient.

  • Scott

    I was born in Africa. I live in the US. I’m white. Am I not an African-American?