Based on our genetic ancestry test results, we discovered we have over 3,000 DNA  relatives combined. We contacted all our new DNA relatives and invited them to  participate in the Belongingness project, exploring what identity is and how we are all  connected to one another.  

After contacting our relatives, we each booked and had 10 meetings with 10 different  DNA relatives of all ages and from all parts of the world in March 2021. Through these  online meetings and conversations that lasted for roughly an hour each, we looked to  learn more about our connection, why participants took the genetic test, what they were  looking for, and whether they had found what they were after. Together we talked  through the complexity of our interconnections that define part of our identities and  discovered new meanings to old ideas.

We used landmark points to represent the faces. The names of the participants and our DNA relatives are abbreviated for the purpose of anonymity. Everyone involved consented to the publication of these stories, images and  audio recordings.  

Raquel :: P from Portugal, living in Portugal

Me and P. share 1 segment of the genome. P. told me that he took this test out of curiosity, told me that in personality tests his results say that he has characteristics of an open person. He also told me that he was one of the first people he knew to take this test and that whenever there are new things announced he goes and participates. I was curious about personality tests, I had never taken one, I decided to take one out of curiosity, the result told me that I am the protagonist type person: “is a person with the Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judging personality traits.” I was wondering about the relationship between these personality tests and DNA tests, how much of our personality is in our DNA? Is our personality genetically influenced too?

P. told me that through the results of the DNA test he found that he was 50% likely to have prostate cancer, he told me: when you get these results you have two options, either you panic or you do prevention work. And he decided to go with the second option. Perhaps this is the best way to take it, to take advantage of the scientific developments to take preventive steps towards better health and health choices.

The curiosity in taking this test also existed because he was born in a family that also had no records of his past. He knew nothing about his ancestors after his grandparents, just like me and my family. We realized that both of our families are from the region of Tomar, an area in central Portugal. He told me that his wife's family has books with family records from over 500 years ago. I was impressed by that  P. told me that  his constant desire to discover new things and challenge himself  defines who he is. He works in the field of physics and biology and was born curious.

He was a teacher for 12 years, taught in Mozambique, East Timor, Eastern Europe, at the moment he has his own company but he has had several jobs and somewhat different lives. He said to me: “I don't want to do just one thing my whole life”. When he finished his PhD, he radically changed his research and for him it was like an inevitability, he needed to start pursuing other discoveries.

I told him about my experiences in Mozambique, about what was at the time my first big trip, and we shared memories of that incredible country. P. asked me: what is your dream? I was not expecting this question, nor do I know if I had recently thought about it, but I quickly told him about two dreams: being a mother and one day having the key to a theatre room, where I can work freely. He told me that someone's dreams can define a person. I wondered if our dreams are in our DNA? In what vein do our dreams exist?

P.'s dream is to create an organisation  where he can create new methodologies for teaching science. He thinks that the way science is taught today is not stimulating enough for young people and he has ideas  on how to change that paradigm.

He showed me a radiometer, a scientific object that when it receives light, it moves, for a long time scientists could not explain that phenomenon.
When I asked him about the feeling of belonging, he told me about the starry sky of the village where he was born. He has very clear memories of spending hours looking at the sky until he knew it all by heart. Looking at that sky gives him the clear feeling that he belongs there, it was in that sky that he dreamed of his life, and that he feels he belongs   in the universe.