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  • Writer's pictureMidWestMixed

Carolina: Within, Between, & Beyond

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Within, Between, and Beyond is a multi-layered art installation and participatory experience sharing an evolving archive of stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who identify as Mixed Race or Transracial or Transnational Adoptee. Interviews for the video portion of the installation were conducted by Lola Osunkoya, who here introduces our subjects and shares a few highlights from their stories.

Carolina self-identifies as Chilean American, an indigenous person of Chile, North Dakotan, bicultura, and a transracial/transnational adopteel. Carolina uses she/her pronouns.

We met with Carolina in the summer of 2018, when she had recently returned from living in Chile for a few years. Much of the beauty in her interview was that in a way, she was both telling her story and processing it for the first time. Carolina was adopted as a young child into a white family in North Dakota, but always noticed a difference.

My adoption was diminished as just the way they acquired me. But they didn’t want it to define me - I was their own. This was conflicting as an adult, because I was curious about the other side of me that I wasn’t getting… the physical differences. I stuck out, I was exotified, I was different than my peers. I wasn’t comfortable to express this to my parents, for fear of hurting them. I was a people pleaser. These experiences and messages spoke loudly, and the silence spoke very loud to me.

Many adoptees have a significant relationship with “the file” - a packet of information about their adoption. Adoptive families vary greatly on how much they share the contents of the file with adoptees, and Carolina’s experience was complex.

I was given the legal paperwork right before my trip - it wasn’t available to me until there was a purpose for it. There was a whole file. I searched when my parents weren’t home. It was shocking to know it existed and as an adult it wasn’t given to me, even when I asked. I think this was more to protect them and their feelings, not being ready to address it with me. For my family, this trip and the file was scary for them, they associated my trip with leaving, separating, losing me. Which was never on the table for me. Not having the communication skills has been difficult for us.

Finding and meeting took two years of baby steps and identity crises. I experienced depression and anxiety, I even saw a therapist there for 4 or 5 months. Reunion was a joyous moment, she was so beautiful she couldn’t be my mother! Because adopted children dream of their mothers when they have that absent image… to have that woman in front of you in flesh and blood open her arms, that filled a big void.

To hear the full story on how Carolina located her birth mother, and what she learned about herself in the process, be sure to come to the exhibition at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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