Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Née (born as) Canberra, 26 January 2012

Née (born as) is a conversation project which invites you to tell the stories of your names; the names of your family; the names you have left behind; the names you have embraced. We invite you join us in stitching your name/s on to a piece of fabric, while you share your story. Using meaninful remannats of fabric; an old worn out t-shirt, some left over fabric from a school uniform, the tie you wore to your wedding, the stitched names will join a fabric ‘wall’, inscribed as a memorial to lost names. The wall will be added to by others as the project moves through different communities.  

The first iteration of Née (born as) was held on January 26, in my shed, with people from my community; neighbours, old friends, new friends, workmates, family.

It was wonderful to see how the process became a catalyst for each participant’s story of lost or found names to emerge.  Choosing a name to stitch became a process in itself, and participants began to share their stories: Amy’s surname is hers because her mother kept her maiden name and passed it on to her daughters, beginning a new family tradition.  Dan and Alison chose a new name to share when they married, both of them leaving behind their ‘maiden names’. 

Alison struggled to spell hers as a child, just writing Alison Pr. Esme is one of their chooks, and the name of my old car. Sue took her husband’s family name, but kept her family tradition of ‘no-middle-name’ when naming her children.  Jane left behind her Chinese name as a child, to protect herself from the taunts of classmates.  George’s Greek name isn’t lost to him, but he had to take the time to remember its shape in Greek script. Drew recorded his mother’s maiden name and Heidi stitched the name she was known by in-utero – and told us her own unborn baby is called Kevin – for now! 

Bec and her daughter stitched the family name that is her husband's and children's, but not hers. Dom and Finn chose to explore the medium..... Eden is only 3, she has just learned to spell and stitch her name…almost.

Throughout, we discussed this most charged of subjects. What are the reasons for people to change their names?  How powerful is a name, and how much power is in the giving or taking away of one?  Is changing a name under social pressure empowering, or capitulation? How much do we own our names and their stories – and how much of those stories is owned by others? Now that they’ve shared their stories, they are a part of Née (born as).  More stories and stitching are coming by post, and the project’s next iterations will be at 4A centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney’s Chinatown, and Casula Powerhouse in Liverpool in February.  Stay tuned!

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