Jasmine Smith - Scholars - The Gordon Parks Foundation

Jasmine Smith is a third-year undergraduate photography student at Pratt Institute. Smith’s current work focuses on her afro-Guyanese heritage and her connection to these roots having been born in the United States. By combining new images with found images from family archives, Smith builds collages that bridge the gap between her life in the U.S. and the culture in Guyana.

“My grandmother’s blood runs through me, as does the blood of those who came before and ties me to Guyana. This work serves as a reminder of the connection that will forever be.”

Despite the fact that Jasmine Smith grew up with her mother and grandmother, both of whom emigrated from Guyana, she found it hard to connect with Guyanese culture. As a kid whenever Smith’s family traveled to Guyana, they would stay at her uncle’s house in Stewartsville, the village where her family grew up. Every time Smith went there however, she felt like a tourist. It wasn’t until the death of Smith’s grandmother last year that she developed an interest in her family history. Smith began looking at song keys that her grandmother referred to as “Sacred Songs.” In Smith’s project, she pairs song keys with archival photographs to create collages representing her connection with the past. Smith also uses a reoccurring symbol of gold jewelry as representative of Guyanese traditions in her photographs. Before a Guyanese baby gets their ears pierced, their parents buy them gold earrings. As the child grows, the gold is melted down and refitted to grow with the child. This visual work allows Smith to look back and reconnect with her Guyanese heritage and her grandmother's legacy.