Water Over Skin: A Post-colonial Analysis of Cultural Identity - Overcoming a Sense of Shame

By Daphne Cazalet.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Pertinent photographs and cultural patterning with screenprinting techniques investigate the way in which layering of hybridity and cultural identity is constructed within a marginalized ‘poetic space’.

I argue that identity is shaped and transformed by issues of difference, both cultural and racial. Biography plays a key role in post-colonialism and postmodernism. I therefore embrace my personal story offering a vehicle for a theoretical exploration of the issues involved.

I explore experiences from childhood, from an assimilationist perspective - deeply shaped by personal shame - to that of an adult encountering and expressing a post-colonial inspiration for hybridity of culture and an identity of self.

Having been born in the sub-continent of India, at that time beset by colonial domination as well as the Indian caste system, I migrated as a young girl with the rest of my family – of ‘Anglo-Indian’, mixed-race descent – to Britain, the mythical ‘mother country’. We were surrounded by a very different kind of class-consciousness: English society and its culture of the 1950s. Only years later did I comprehend the enormity of this displacement.

My own migration from England to Australia in 1981 has since given me an absorbing critical and analytical focus on my individuality, gender, colour, culture and creativity. Initiating multicultural arts projects and workshops with ‘other’ migrant and Indigenous Australian women – many of whom are also of ‘mixed-blood’ descent, provided a catalyst for my own experience of white, British, colonial hegemony albeit of a very different political stance. Australia has become a third personal, physical space as well as a third metaphysical space for me – which offers me the opportunity to investigate from personal experience, the hypothesis of the ‘third space’ put forward by Indian cultural theorist, Homi Bhabha, who examines the contemporary, global consequences of cultural hybridity and diaspora.

Keywords: Cultural Identity/Post-colonial, Half-caste/Mixed-race/Hybridity, ‘Coloured’/Shame, Gender-role, Different Cultural Environment

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.227-238. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.222MB).

Dr. Daphne Cazalet

PhD Scholarship Candidate, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia

Daphne was born in India and educated in India and the UK which gave her the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. She trained in drama in London in the 60s and taught and acted in theatre in Bristol, migrating to Australia in 1982. She continued working in theatre and initiated many writing and collaborative arts projects with migrant and Indigenous women and young people, funded by the Australia Council and state governments. In 2002 Daphne received a BVA first class honours at James Cook University, Townsville and a residency at Umbrella Contemporary Art from 2004-2005. She moved to Darwin in 2005. A Painting Residency at Territory Craft NT resulted in an exhibition inspired by a visiting Indian dance company. In 2006 she gained a PhD Australian Postgraduate Scholarship in visual arts and research at Charles Darwin University. Recent solo exhibitions involving her PhD practice were shown at Parliament House for Darwin Festival and Perc Tucker Regional Art Gallery, Queensland. Her work has been featured on Stateline TV. NT. and ABC National TV. Sunday Arts Program. In her visual work she continues to explore the social and political effects of gender, mixed-race, colour and identity. Daphne was awarded a PhD in visual arts practice and research in 2009 and now lives and works in Salento, Southern Italy.


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