Friday, February 10, 2012

Identity

My big girl came home with her year 10 English assignment the other day... 
she has to write a personal reflection on what it is to be Australian and do a 
presentation. It was a difficult concept for her because she said she doesn't 
feel Australian; she doesn't identify with any of the generalisations with 
which we are constantly bombarded. 


I couldn't think of a thing to say... I don't feel Australian either. We talked 
about the nature of identity and how it can be formed in many different ways. 
I made a flippant comment: The only time I feel Australian is when I'm overseas!


And then I came across this image....


My Home is the Sea by Matt Wisniewski








































It vividly reminded me of when we used to live in London and how I longed 
to see the sea. The Mr and I would hire a car and drive to Brighton or 
Ilfracombe in North Devon and just gaze at it for ages, taking in our fill. This, 
then, reminded me of how I also used to long to smell freshly cut grass... 
weird I know ;)


Anyway, in the way of meandering thought processes.... it all made me realise 
that I am very Australian, inside me, at some integral spot... I really need vast 
spaces every so often to feel at ease, and for me that is symbolised by the sea. 
I'm guessing because I spent so much of my childhood at the beach. Also, the 
smell of freshly cut grass is symbolic of our outdoors way of living here. Again 
from childhood, it's warm summer days spent playing outside.


Of course, my big girl can't use my reflections but I'm hoping this will help her 
come up with something meaningful for herself.


How about you? Do you feel Australian, or wherever you're from? Do you feel 
connected to where you were born or can you only see these connections when 
you're far away from there? I'd love to hear what you think :)


22 comments:

Loz and Dinny said...

I definately feel more Australian overseas ... I guess it is where you best notice how the culture in which you grew up in makes you different. Funny - the ocean is the big thing for me too ... I even miss that being in a land locked regional city. I love nothing better than feeling very small in a very big space. Beautiful post and that image is just beautiful x

mizu designs said...

Like you Kylie it's more about when I lived or traveled in other countries that I felt Australian. Having said that, when I was living in Japan I'd cringe at the sound of a crass Aussie tourist's voice when I heard one. At those times I felt more Japanese than Australian. Strange, huh? And yet when I returned to Australia to live I really struggled with ordinary 'Australian' behaviour because I felt it was too crude, too big, too loud, too lacking in subtleties.... It took me ages to readjust to living here. Cultural identity is and odd thing.

Perhaps your daughter could frame her project around other aspects of identity - being a sister/daughter/cousin/teenage girl, city person, someone into (books, music, goth clothes - I'm guessing here but fill the blanks...) and that all this stuff together makes her an Australian. ???

Flaming Nora said...

Cold, damp and slightly grumpy.
Yes I am defiantly feeling very English right now!

Kate Kelleher said...

I love Ilfracombe, a popular holiday destination of the Victorians, I believe! Damien Hurst co owns a restaurant there, the bar walls are covered in butterfly wings. He has circular pictures upstairs coated in gloss with butterflies in them, as if they have been flying through it and got stuck. (hmm) Anyway lobster was delish!

Blueberry Park said...

That image is so provocative, Kylie. What a beautiful tranquil picture. It's so true that we feel more who we are and where we are from when we are taken away from it and have the opportunity to compare and contrast. Most of the time we plug on with life cocooned and only when we are somewhere new can we see it. I'm not sure what I feel. I am English, but Jewish too and I think that is possibly my strongest identity. Such an interesting project your daughter has to do!

la casita said...

What a nice post Kylie. I grew up by the seaside as well and I do miss the sea, I always need to live at least near a river.
I don't feel Italian but I never felt it since I'm half Argentinian and half Sicilian :D (you must know that sicilian do not consider themselves Italian and the other way round) I always find it difficult to have an identity and that it's very helpful to set me down wherever we move. I guess I'm just a citizen of the World with a taste for good food and great coffee ;)

Francesca said...

lovely post. and thought-provoking. i do feel very english. i am very english. i'm reserved and polite and a homebody. but i definitely have a very italian streak too, a short temper, wanting to pat random babies in the street and worrying the boys will catch a chill!

my boys are quarter italian, quarter english, quarter danish and quarter jewish. who knows what they'll feel like! x

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Karen Barbé said...

This is so interesting, Kylie, I'd never thought of this before. Just as you point out, I feel Chilean only when I'm abroad. Most of the time I feel disconnected to people and the culture of this country but I've managed to gather some local values I really cherish, like the sea or the humble spirit of Chileans.

flowerpress said...

When I came back from living overseas for a year it was the landscape driving between Melbourne and Sydney, rolling hills of straw coloured grass and gums and sky, that caught my breath and made me realise this is my land and I feel very connected to it. That and the feeling of being in a group of people between the flags just revelling in floating over waves together which seems very Australian to me :-)

Jenny said...

Im Australian but live in France every couple of years for months at a time because my daughter is there.

When in Paris Im forced to feel Australian because I dont know the langunge well and long for the open spaces,silence and my studio,instead of the hussle and bussle.
But back in Australia I feel bit French and long for the food,art ,people and my little art studio there.

I had an arts residency in Barcelona once and felt very displaced because the landscape is similar.I had to paint my way out of it to make sense, so I felt comfortably Australian.

Pippa said...

I'm English and worked and travelled in the UK in early 2000, I felt Aussie then cause everyone told me I was! The way I spoke, what I said and my need too also venture outdoors, see an unspoilt horizon.
Now I feel both! I would encourage your daughter to see beyond the stereotype and use herself and friendship groups to guide a new Australian outlook, especially from a young women's perspective in this technical age.
I hope she has fun with it! :)

at swim-two-birds said...

I think you're right when you say that we strongly feel our identity when we are abroad; in my case, it is expressed when my silly jokes are no longer understood, or when people start laughing when I thought I was serious :^)
I don't feel connected whith the Belgian landscape but I like the Belgian mentality and I love bullshitting in my own language!

maria said...

As a first-generation Canadian living in Iceland, I can totally relate to this. I definitely feel more "Canadian" when I'm in Iceland than when I go "home" to visit. My parents are from Burma, and though I identify more as Canadian than anything else, it's still not a "perfect fit", which I think is probably common for children of immigrants, and maybe also for people who've made a home away from home for a long time. I cook my parents' food in my own home (or at least try), but miss the trees, rolling hills, wide open spaces and lakes of Ontario, where I grew up.

Ingrid Mida said...

Dear Kylie,
What a beautiful image and a thoughtful post. I would guess most people don't really think about their identity until they get into a situation where they notice the difference between themselves and others. As a Canadian, our cultural identity is almost nonexistent since we are a mixing pot of cultures. But, I do notice and feel very Canadian when I'm away from home.

Dora said...

i really love the image you found. I can relate so much to this post because I am somewhat dsiplced from my original country as well. You realise that the smallest things remind you of home :) I love your blog and I am now following. Would love it if you liked to check my blog too :)
xo
Dora
http://adropofindigo.blogspot.com/

Luna Landing said...

What a thoughtful post. I often feel excluded by the popular view of what it means to be Australian. I just don't identify and often don't connect much with people who have that strong sense themselves. I kinda blame John Howard for that whole "mateship/cricket/Aussie digger" thing he used to drone on about. It just excludes so many of us (women for example :)). I believe Australia needs to mature into something more inclusive.. just a thought.....Mind you I haven't been overseas so I imagine that would be an interesting experience in learning what it means to feel Australian - thank you for the insights!

Jo said...

I feel similar to you - not particularly Australian on the surface but definitely when I'm out of the counnrty, and when I do simple things like walk along a gum tree lined street in my thongs, marvel at the beautiful grevillias, notice bellbirds singing etc. I wonder too if we're not turned off identifying with some of the more ocker Australian stereotypes, hence we don't see ourselves as particularly Australian. Good luck to your big girl.

gretchenmist . . . {belinda} said...

interesting! as i get older i definitely feel lucky to be australian ~ a concept i rejected when i was a teenager!!
hope the presentation goes/went well :)
xx

Alisa said...

I think that is so true - when we had been living os for some time M and I took a break and went to Tuscany. I can still remember the rush of smelling the eucalypts on the breeze on the Cinque Terre coast. Moments like that make your heart swell and take you straight back to your roots. : )
Lovely post Kylie, loooove that image. It's my absolute fav of his. x

Susana said...

I love your site, Kylie~! I am from the USA - specifically from Michigan. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes (as we call them here) and I even though I'm currently living in the middle of the state, I'm never more than 2 hours from the lake. Our Great Lakes (5 of them in all) are HUGE and like being on the ocean. Lake Michigan is my favorite (the ocean without any salt or deadly sea creatures!) and watching the sunset and the waves while sitting on the beach is my favorite thing to do. If I go on vacation, I need to be by water! I have Aussie friends, who teach me Aussie talk, and would love to go there some day, if only I could stand that long plane ride! I have traveled a lot, just not to your country. I definitely feel more North American when I travel about!

Susana said...

I love your site, Kylie~! I am from the USA - specifically from Michigan. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes (as we call them here) and I even though I'm currently living in the middle of the state, I'm never more than 2 hours from the lake. Our Great Lakes (5 of them in all) are HUGE and like being on the ocean. Lake Michigan is my favorite (the ocean without any salt or deadly sea creatures!) and watching the sunset and the waves while sitting on the beach is my favorite thing to do. If I go on vacation, I need to be by water! I have Aussie friends, who teach me Aussie talk, and would love to go there some day, if only I could stand that long plane ride! I have traveled a lot, just not to your country. I definitely feel more North American when I travel about!