The Pearls My Mother Gave Me


The trauma my mother and grandmothers experienced has traces in my life in ways that go beyond the physical and agitates the spiritual. For many of us, trauma starts at home. We grow up in homes where fragile masculinity and toxic love reign as femininity is controlled and constrained. We were either consumed by silence or fought against it. "The Pearls My Mother Gave Me" is an ongoing exploration of generational trauma, the residual influence of abuse in the lives of the women in my family and my personal fight toward radical healing. The pearl, a gem associated with femininity and softness, symbolizes both the spiritual gifts -- strength, resilience, faith -- as well as the trauma I inherited from my foremothers. I use my camera to explore the long-term psychological and physical effects trauma has on the body, mind and spirit as well as the ways in which my foremothers have healed from it.

Photographed mostly in Trenton, SC, I revisit the birthplace of my great-great grandmother to reconnect with black southern life and my ancestral origins. I combine photo, video, and audio to create an oral and visual documentation of the healing properties of the rural south and the process of understanding my maternal family history. In doing so, I actively preserve what little I still have through photographs, oral history to trace the ancestral blood memory which binds us. This memory is revealed through spiritual experiences, love, and an inherent fight to survive. The result is a raw and honest body of work that simultaneously celebrates and examines the complexity of motherhood, black queerness, and an intrinsic fight toward liberation.

Ireashia Monét