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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Postcards: our processes of selection and identity formation

When I used to buy postcards I would browse the racks for hours. Or so it seemed. The card had to be just right. It had to represent as accurately as possible the things I had experienced, the places I had been, and the stuff I had seen. If there was a connection between the image on the card and the person I wished to send it to, all the better. For instance, the cards below which I sent to mother from Greece and Amsterdam had nothing or little to do with those respective destinations. The card of old Hong Kong I found at a museum: I hoped it would remind my mother of her travels to Hong Kong when she was young. The image of pretty feet decorated with henna and silver rings reminded me of the time my parents visited us in Abu Dhabi and I took my mother to the ladies salon to get some henna done. And the painting of Ukrainian women, from an art exhibition in Amsterdam, was intended to remind my mum of her beloved parents, now dead, born in Russia. If I can't find cards that make a connection to the recipient, then I look for postcards that represent me, that reflect my feelings at the time, that say something about me, what I'm doing, and what I'm thinking. (When I sent the tulips, I was in Amsterdam, life was good, and I was happy.) Or perhaps the postcards I choose are simply a demonstration of my taste or style, of the kinds of things I like, of whom I am, and how I want to be seen. Can something as simple as a postcard help represent, even shape, our identity? And why is this even important to us? Well, for me, it's because I'm so far away. I don't want my family and friends to forget me. To forget who I was. And perhaps I want them to try and understand the person I am now. The person I've become since I've been 'away'.

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