Charmaine de Heij is of Surinamese and Dutch descent and with her photography project 'Mi Sabi', she investigates what it means to have a mixed heritage. This project shows Dutch and Surinamese identity. ‘Mi Sabi' shows characteristics of the two cultures and aspects of the traditions. Suriname is a former colony of the Netherlands, and the Surinamese culture has been integrated with the Dutch in many ways. The Surinamese diaspora is very large in the Netherlands. It shows the identity of the diaspora which is “a continuous play of history, culture and power” (Hall, 1990).
The cultures are connected, but they can also clash. This collision comes to a head in the celebration of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas is a white male, who yearly arrives in the Netherlands with his servants; the ‘Zwarte Pieten’. Zwarte Piet is a figure which is racist and is stemming from colonialism.
Stuart Hall once wrote; “Culture is about shared meaning” (1997) , this celebration does not have a shared meaning in the shared culture. This subject is also explored in 'Mi Sabi'.
‘Mi Sabi' shows cultural symbols from both cultures. The series gives a glimpse into the mixed cultures and hopes to start a dialogue with the viewer and arouse understanding of coming from two cultures.