"The photo series, The Performance of Family, will hopefully lead others to reflect on their family dynamics and how those relationships have informed their identities; as it did for me."
Tsega creates for the betterment of herself and the world around her.
Can you describe yourself or your personal identity with a five-word story? Why did you choose those words?
Ceaselessly chasing that which heals.
I chose those words because the pursuit of truthful expression, the pursuit of holistic health, the pursuit of God, and the pursuit of knowing myself deeply have proven to bring profound healing into my life - so I will never stop pursuing these things.
How does this series, as a whole, or each piece individually, represent the idea, embody, or visualize the essence of identity for you?
This series speaks to a sensitive part of everyone’s identity; identity as it relates to the family structure. Identity can be shaped by so many external forces, so it only makes sense to investigate how our closest relationships, family, can inform the roles we play. It requires me to be painfully honest with myself about the roles I’ve given myself, been given, and have given to those I love. Introspection can be a great tool for healing and getting to know yourself in your context.
How do you think home and family, or the idea of them, and identity development coexist or inform each other?
Our family constitutes our very first relationships outside of our relationship with ourselves. That’s where it all begins, self love or self loathing, always being taken care of or always taking care of others, learning to manipulate the emotions of others, it’s all learned at home first. We often repeat the behavior that starts at home, and if that behavior is toxic, we have to open our eyes to it in order to really decide who you want to be; the product of your circumstances, or deliberately otherwise.
Why do you create?
I create because it heals me, gives me a voice I never thought possible for me, all while teaching me new things about myself along the way.
Who do you create for?
I create for anyone who’s ever been shut down for saying what they think, being who they are, or sharing how they feel. I create for people that don’t have the words to say that they are suffering, don’t know where to begin looking for healing, or never saw anyone that resembled them represented in art and media.
How has your locale informed your identity?
I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, and specifically spent most of my life moving around the east side, from Lithonia, to Clarkston, to Decatur, GA. So much of my music, poetry, photography, and graphics are inspired by the rich artistic environment and multicultural landscape of Atlanta. It is truly a place of character, like nowhere else. I left Atlanta after graduating high school and lived the last four years in Los Angeles, CA studying the arts at the University of Southern California. There I discovered an incredible community of young black artists ready to express themselves to the world, and it is there that I first gained the confidence to go out on my own and be the artist that I am among them. I’ve recently moved back to Atlanta, GA and am in the process of transferring schools. In an effort to prioritize my mental health, I’ve returned to my home wherein lies a support system (my family) and a change of pace from life in LA. It was difficult to leave USC because I placed so much of my identity in being a student there, but I had to realize that no matter where I am, the only thing my success depends on is me.
Have you been able to find or create a physical community where you live?
Yes, I have a loving Ethiopian church community that has re-entered my life since moving home. I’ve also begun collaborating in spaces with young local artists in the black community and African diaspora.
How has the Internet expanded or changed your idea of and involvement in community exchanges?
The internet is the greatest tool in expressing yourself and finding your community. Social media allows my relationship with my followers to be more than just dropping content for them and moving onto the next project. I share deeply personal things about myself and my life because I love connecting, truly connecting, to people. We’re here on Earth together for a reason, because we have something to offer one another just by being who we are. The internet gives the opportunity and platform to do so.