I Exist Therefore I Am explores how Caribbean-Latinx individuals process a bicultural identity and the ways in which it manifests itself in their lives. As a Black, second-generation, person of Jamaican-Ecuadorian descent, I have been hesitant to delve further into my cultural identity due to preconceived notions of race, culture, and belonging. The work is a testament to the statement “I Exist Therefore I Am”, intended to create new representations of Blackness in contemporary media, which so often is commodified in art history and popular culture.   

Through friendship and community, I engaged with several Caribbean-Latinx individuals as a vessel of strength and assurance. My friends, Nautica, Martin, and Andre, are individuals wanting to unfold the richness of their identities and create bonds within our community. Before each photo session, I sat down with each person and had an intimate conversation about what cultural identity means to them? And how they envision their experience being portrayed? While also considering the use of visual markers like; location, clothing, expression, and objects. 

In pursuing this project, I wanted to rework the idea of a ‘subject’, and strive towards a collaborative relationship with the people I photographed. Allowing for them to have control over their own narratives and be portrayed as unique and intersectional beings, each expressing a personal sense of self. The photographs are intended as a means of reimagining the diaspora experience and understanding that cultural identity is both a matter of becoming and being. In Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, he claims that diaspora requires the recognition of difference, which is defined by the understanding of identity that lives and exists with hybridity. Diaspora identities are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew through transformational change and difference. I Exist Therefore I Am hopes to portray the beauty of diversity that is the Caribbean-Latinx diaspora. 

What does it mean to think about cultural identity in terms of performativity? Considering the complicated balance between showing the visible and invisible, I purposefully used performance as a means of challenging the way we think about diasporic Blackness. By photographing Black individuals expressing their relationship to culture, it acts as a means of challenging hegemonic norms set in the past. As John T. Warren writes, “Performativity makes space for possibility and in that lies its strength”. The possibility being the reimagination of the Black diaspora and in this case the Caribbean-Latinx community. Reframing our understanding of the hierarchies of belonging, the work takes on the process of reiteration, reiterating portraiture that interrupts the subjectivity of the viewer. I Exist Therefore I Am establishes a new representation of identity, offering a way of destabilizing restrictive notions of race, culture, and belonging.

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