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 :: T from Brazil, living in Brazil

T. and I share 1 segment of the genome. We also share our mother tongue, Portuguese, with some slight differences in grammar and accent as I speak Portuguese from Portugal and he speaks Portuguese from Brazil. His maternal grandparents are Portuguese, they migrated from the island of Madeira to Brazil, and his mother and him were born in Brazil.

It was his brother-in-law who was the first to take the DNA test in his family and who later, enthusiastically brought tests for more family members to take too.

He told me about his trip to Portugal, how he traveled around the country by car, but he didn't have time to catch a plane and visit Madeira. T. was in Lisbon at the time of the Santo António festivities, the popular festivities in which the whole city gets involved in a big celebration, everyone’s on the streets, there’s dancers, popular marches, weddings of Santo António and lots of sardines! He told me about how amazing those days were in Lisbon and how he felt privileged  to get to  experience the city’s culture . I shared with him my memories of the first carnival I  ever went to in Rio de Janeiro. One of the clearest memories was of being at a  particular street  and someone telling me: there must be 1 million people in this block and I froze! I just thought, the city of Lisbon has 500 thousand inhabitants, in this moment twice the population of the city of Lisbon is all gathered in one avenue, twice the population of the city of Lisbon is in costume and very happy! I imagined the whole of Lisbon happy for a week, this is my memory of the carnival in Rio! Oh, and the whole city is very very happy at 7 am, drinking and dancing at 7am!

When we talked about the results of the DNA test, T. told me: “We are all mixed, we all came from one place, right?”

When I asked him about belonging he told me it might even be a cliché, but he spoke of the typical Brazilian meal, rice and beans, he spoke of gastronomy as a way of relating to a place. We agreed that there are things that only make sense in a certain place, and we laughed when we talked about how in Rio de Janeiro at Christmas  it is 40 degrees or so, but the Christmas trees are still  covered with snow.