In 1998, for the first time as an adult, I traveled to my birthplace of my parents in Portugal. The images convey the contradictions between what might be perceived as a romantic nostalgia for a time past and a harsh reality of what our family - more specifically myself within this family - endured. The political and religious persecution that informed both the distant and recent histories of my family plays an integral role in the uncovering of the family secrets that have patterned my own personal history and shaped my identity. My ancestry is indivisible from a larger history of secret Jewish communities of Portugal, the "Marranos", whose 'double existence' can be traced back to the expulsions of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400s. Tracing a Diaspora, a tribeless tribe, longing for answers, longing to belong, to outcast alienation, I have ecountered the obsession to preserve, to document, to prevent disappearance and forgetfulness. It is a means of mapping out the experience into something visible, to retrace footsteps. This work is an archaeological inquiry into the deepest reaches of my genetic memory.
Miriam Sampaio is a Montreal-based video and photographic artist. Her video "The Invisible Proof of my Identity" has been screened in Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Europe. Her photos have received various accolades including the Agfa Award, given to outstanding students of photography at Concordia University. As a recipient of Canada Council grant, she produced the video "Murmur", for which she traveled to Portugal to film and carry out research on her Jewish-Portugese roots. She has also been awarded the prestigious FCAR grant to undertake a new photo project in Eastern Europe under the mentorship of Evergon. As an emerging independent curator, she has programmed a selection of videos by women for Groupe Intervention Vidéo in Montreal, Quebec in 2000 and for the VideoLisboa Festival in Lisbon, Portugal in 2001. Her inaugural solo exhibition of photography and video, "Murmur", opened at Galerie La Centrale, in Montreal, Quebec, in January 2002. (www.givideo.org)