After taking the test shots, I began to feel extremely homesick. Being homesick didn’t take the questions away though. What is my culture? Where do I fit in it? How do others view it? How can I reflect this into a project that supposed to be based around the area which surrounds Unitec?
I started to question the direction of my project in terms of the various mediums and the directions of each individual medium (photography, moving image and graphic design).
I decided that I no longer wanted to include the moving image and graphic design aspects in the project. I feel that they wouldn’t be adding anything to the project. I want to stick to the photography but I no longer want to do staged photographs.
My natural style of photography is documentary, and I feel that I need to do what I’m comfortable with.
When thinking about my culture and how I wish to move forward, I realised through research that with South Africa being so diverse, it’s impossible to generalize the culture into one statement. However, the basis of all the cultures within South Africa is family. I wish to explore this through the remainder of the Scape Project, while interjecting all the pervious research too.
To fulfil the rest of the Scape Project, I need to ensure that I’m honest with myself. I need to be honest with what my culture is and how it can be viewed by others in an authentic way. I need to start from scratch in a sense.
I need to do this by reflecting upon myself. Since I’ll be turning 20 next year, this year is my final year as a teenager. Perhaps that means something in relation to the project.
I’ve decided to write a letter to myself in order to be honest with myself in a tactile way, rather than just thoughts in my head. Being 19, Im in the final year of being able to use the excuse “Im a teenager”. I feel that by reflecting on myself, my life and my teenage years, I may be able to get a clear direction of where I wish to go with the SCAPE Project.
“a letter to my teenage self” by TAMLYN THEYS
Sometimes there will be fear. Not enough of it. A lot of it. Sometimes there will be successes. Not enough of it. A lot of it. Sometimes you’ll want to reach the sky but can’t quite touch it. You will delicately hover your finger over it like it’s the rope wrapped around your feet that drags you down. You will take a long time to reach the clouds. The long time will become a theme in your life, but it’s a journey that you are learning how to love.
Before you dive into the rest of your life, you’re going to plunge into phases of being sure of who you are, where you come from and where you’re going.
Several of these phases include:
- The dance-at-every-waking-moment (aka “I’m going to dance with Beyoncé”) phase
- The football-player-olympic-athletic phase (which challenged the I’m-going-to-be-in-glee-club phase)
- The tomboy-super-straight-hair-undercover-spy phase
- The pretend-I’m-white-with-a-tan phase
- The regina-george-meets-urkel-popular-kid-who’s-from-an-exotic-place phase
During those phases, you are looking in all the hidden caves of the world for who you are. But relax, sweetie pie. Take your time. There’s no rush because you’ll get there with time. You don’t have to have everything figured out today or tomorrow. Only time with tell.
Sometimes you’re going to push the boundaries of these phases, and when you’re feeling confident and willing to show the world that this is who you are, your peers will call you names. “weird, loser, ugly, not-from-here.” Don’t worry. One day you will embrace them and name yourself. The names that had been placed on you will be forgotten and only the name you have given yourself will remain.
Sorry to say that you’ll still be called these names now and possibly when you’re an adult. But at this point, you have already held onto some of them so they don’t mean the same to you as they did back in the day. They don’t have the same power over you. You will realise that you control what and how much power these words have. Sticks and stones.
On the topic of words, you’re going to eventually fall in love with them. It’ll be a lust that turns out to only be masking the love you’re afraid to admit to yourself because you’re embarrassed. You think it’s dorky. It’s not. You could spend hours just you and your words, writing down your thoughts. They make you feel acknowledged and understood despite the fact that you’re having conversations with yourself.
Put trust into those words, even when you’re feeling ashamed by them. Cherish them. Keeping using them. Later These will become a friend to you, that is always there for you no matter what.
God has been good to you. There is a lot you could ask him to take back. And there’s also a long list of things that you’d like to share your appreciation to him for. In the meantime, let’s just mention three of those things:
- That you held your tongue when your teacher was yelling at you when you were getting in trouble for skipping French class because you had no ‘valid’ explanation, even though you had spent that period crying. Good on ya
- That you moved to New Zealand. I seriously doubt that you’d have the same appreciation for South Africa or be the same person you are today if you hadn’t of been exposed to such a different culture, different types of people and experimented with the way you look so that you could fit in here
- That he chose your family be your family
They are a wonder to you. You sit back and watch as everyone walks into Mama’s house one by one with a theme song for their entrances, stands around waiting for someone to pray, lines up like at a buffet restaurant for the food, laughter spilling out from everyone’s mouths while having a meal and ending the night with a competitive game of dominos with all the love in the world. They are your sun. You’re like the moon, able to shine using the suns light and the sun never asks for anything in return. It’s always there and its always going to shine for you. The beauty will always be there. They are the sun.
You now understand that by watching a family spend time together with love, will make you feel supreme. Like you can do whatever you want and that no one has the power to tell you anything different. You often take them for granted but you know with every inkling in your mind, body and soul; that they’re exceptional. You’re surrounded by South African culture at its finest, it shines bright. You study it and constantly remember the stories and moments you hear and witness. You see the beauty. They re-write the scripts you’ve read about and seen in TV and movies of what it means to be South African and African, so you now throw those out the window.
Since you have your families blood, you’re independent. Almost to a fault. You put a lot of pressure on yourself and end up taking on too many things to the point where you burn out. You shut down. You spend hours in your room watching video after video but not actually watching anything, just staring blankly at a screen.
Sometimes it’s okay to feel that way. It doesn’t make you less like your family in any way. It doesn’t make you less independent. The sun will always rise.
Age seventeen is going to be the hardest year of your life. It will make you change your perspective of what it means to live through the loss of a life. You will lose a very important person to you (whom you love so much and you took for granted) to suicide.
You will be broken. But sooner or later you will learn how to love, appreciate and exist in ways that are seen by others as being ‘weird’. You will put the broken pieces of yourself back into place and slowly build yourself back up again into a different person. I don’t know who that person is, because right now we’re still at the beginning stages of the build.
Who knows how much more life you have inside of you to give. It’s not always going to be easy but I promise that it will be filled with beauty. And it will be bright.
There will probably be aching. There most likely will be unknown and there will probably be the doubt. But the sun will most definitely be there . There will be many moments of happiness and satisfaction that the world will be filled with such divine wonder. There will be times when the joys of life are so overwhelming that it will knock the wind out of you and leave speechless. And there will be times when you’re so sad that you can’t even draw a smile on your face. But you’ll be okay. You have South Africa. You have your sun. And you have yourself.
I will love you forever,
Upon reflection, I found that my family are truly my pride and joy and that is what I wish to focus on for the rest of my project while still bring it back to the connection to site by it being that I am here in Unitec and my family is how I got here.
My new project:
A photojournalistic approach chronicling my families’ diaspora from South Africa from 2005 till present day in 2017. Using images I have taken throughout the specified years that show a glimpse into what our lives have consisted of up until this moment, where I am here at Unitec. I am here reflecting on it all.
Below is my Storyworlds Research assignment in order for you to have a clearer understanding of the context of the work: