Eleonore: 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.
Eleonore is the child of German father and a mother who was read ambiguously. Eleanore uses she/her pronouns.
As a child, her father’s German culture was emphasized at home by both parents, but her mother’s race was cloaked in mystery. Raised in a racially diverse area of Milwaukee, there was plenty of Black community who sensed her mother was Black or mixed. In our interview, Eleonore reflected on the questions she and her friends had:
And so a friend of mine, who is Black, asked me what my mom is and I was like... well I don’t know. Then I’d go try to have the conversation with my mom, and my mom was always very anxious around these conversations and very avoidant. The most concrete answer I got was Creole. Which, of course, I’m like 8 or 11 or 14 and this is pre-internet so I’m like “what does Creole mean?”
Or she’d say things like, “Your grandfather told me that we are of French descent.” Which, what does that mean?
Or she would say, like, “Well, I’m of the Human Race or I’m American just like everyone else and that’s what people need to know.”
And so even though we always knew that my mom was mixed or mixed Black in some kind of way, we didn’t really get a straight story.
She knew that her maternal grandparents had moved from Louisiana to the Midwest for a better life, but there seemed to be more to the story, missing pieces.
As someone who was raised German and typically read as white, Eleonore began exploring identity after leaving for college through getting in touch with the German roots so strongly instilled by her father.
As I was sitting there in this Healing Roots workshop and they were digging deep into this Germanic Root Identity, and it was feeling so good for me to do that… I had this physical sensation behind my sternum, literally the feeling of someone gently knocking. The sense I got was “You know Eleanore, this is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. You ARE supposed to be re-connecting with your identity and your root cultures. And if you’re connecting, you’d better do that for the entirety of your family.”
Traveling down the rabbit hole of a hidden family history, Eleonore found relatives in Louisiana and traveled with her sister to meet them. It was here where she finally found the missing pieces about her mother’s identity and the reasons her grandparents traveled north.
We can’t wait to share more with you about what she learned through this exploration process - See you at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.