Words and photos by Vanessa Hojda.
The Venezuelan women in my family have been carrying the inter-generational weight of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder since the days of our indigenous ancestors. These neurodivergent identities are a grueling way of existing in Venezuela, where they’re seen as a weakness, a religious experience, and a non-medical issue.
The collages in this series were an attempt to work through some emotions that I couldn’t verbalize. The images allowed me to portray some of the chaotic emotions that come with being the descendant of a long line of mental health disorders.
The struggles of the neurodivergent women in my Venezuelan family—grandmother, mother, aunts, sister—also take place in a society that is rife with shadism, machismo, and marked by the deep scars of colonialism. Through my illustrations, I was reflecting on what those broken pieces form when they’re jammed together into one identity.
I was trying to come to terms with the idea that neurodivergence isn’t something to be ashamed of, in spite of my cultural experiences that tell me otherwise. It’s a heavy load to carry every day, and one that is full of contradictions. And yet, even in its grotesquely cumbersome form, I find beauty in self-acceptance. It’s a feeling that comes with knowing that I am strong enough to endure the cold, weighty journey of living like this and that I have other women like me whom I can count on to help me when it feels like it’s too much.
Click anywhere on the photos to expand. Top: “Gabriela”. Bottom row, L-R: “Rosa”, “Raíces”, and “Petra”
Vanessa is a writer and editor with a background in Fine Arts. She loves digital collages, photography and film. She’s mostly active on Twitter @vanessahojda and you can see her writing portfolio on her website.