I am attached to my last name. It is part of my identity, and whenever I see other people named ‘de Bruijn’, I always wonder if we are related. I never changed my last name after I got married. I am part of the first generation in my family, who hasn’t done so. My last name come from a long line of men: the patriarchal line. My action doesn’t even have a lot of meaning, because my daughters still have their father’s last name.
Mothers, myself and my daughters, who carry their fathers last name, are easily forgotten in the family history. They are seen as less important, because they don’t carry your name, your identity. In the Netherlands this was a very real thing: when a woman received an inheritance, her husband would accept the new possessions. The woman, last name not mentioned, was financially completely dependent on men. This way men were allowed, maybe not on purpose but out of tradition, to take ownership of women and history.
Now that this time is fortunately behind us, it might be the right moment to take a look at last names. Shouldn’t women get their mother’s last names? I started wondering what my last name would have been, if this were the case. Who were those women before me? Where did they come from and will I be able to identify myself with another last name? I will start a quest for my lost last name by following the matrilinear line.
Stained glass portraits
This search is the beginning of a new series of portraits. With the help of other women in my family, I will try to discover my female ancestors. Recently I have made two self-portraits as a study for this project. Both are stained glass portraits, combined with a painted canvas or panel.
I will examen our connections to our foremothers, based on stories from the archives and the ideas of my female family. Can we forge a new bond between these women and ourselves? Can a woman take back her lost identity?
This will be my quest..