12:00 - 21:00
"You can be my ears and my eyes, basically you'll be touching the same earth, breathing the same air that I breathed when I was little."
Guided by these words spoken by Mexican author and trans woman Alejandra Ortiz, Dutch cisgender documentary photographer Iris Haverkamp Begemann went on a holiday to the country Alejandra fled from—Mexico. After forming a unique friendship based on mutual trust and understanding, their connection sparked this communal multimedia project in 2021. Led by Alejandra’s instructions and hand-printed maps drawn from memory, Iris travelled to Mexico to visit meaningful locations from Alejandra’s childhood. The map guides Iris to places where Alejandra felt both loved and cared for, but also extremely unsafe, marginalised and rejected by her own family. Shown alongside Alejandra’s personal messages and childhood stories, Iris’s photo series presents a visual diary capturing Alejandra’s memories of a birthplace she had to leave behind, and to which she cannot return.
Mexico is often thought of as a vacation paradise, but its also been acknowledged as one of the world’s deadliest countries for transgender people. Alejandra fled to the Netherlands in search of safety seven years ago, but her residence permit has been recurrently denied by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), which deems Mexico safe. Alejandra has found a safe haven in her chosen family in the Netherlands, building a community with other trans refugees from Latin America, but as long as she is left waiting for her residence permit, she cannot truly be herself and live freely. This exhibition aims to create awareness about the limbo Alejandra finds herself in, as well as many others in similar situations—a state between life and waiting.
Making use of the privilege Iris’s identity as a straight, white, European, cis woman provides, the duo hopes to expose the shortcomings of Dutch migration policies—where nuance might save someone’s life. I Went on a Holiday to the Country You Fled From investigates and aspires to shed light on how our identity can determine the trajectory of our lives—our independence, our capacity for self expression and even the extent of our freedoms.
ABOUT ALEJANDRA ORTIZ
Alejandra Ortiz (Salitral de Carrera, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, 1983) is a writer, researcher and grassroots activist living in the Netherlands since 2015. She is a Mexican trans woman with a history of marginalisation and violence. Her story includes sex work, drug use, and a first-hand experience as a refugee and undocumented migrant, among other intersections. Alejandra devotes her activism to the visibility of empowerment of marginalised communities, through her collective Papaya Kuir and other projects. Alejandra Ortiz’s autobiographical book 'The Truth Will Set Me Free' will be published in October 2022 by Lebowski Publishers.
ABOUT IRIS HAVERKAMP BEGEMANN
Iris Haverkamp Begemann (Dordrecht, 1989) is a Dutch cisgender documentary photographer. She graduated from the Fotoacademie in 2018. Her personal work is represented by Galerie Fleur en Wouter, and her commercial and commissioned work for various (fashion) brands is represented by Czar Amsterdam. Her series Covheads (2020) was shown at photography festival Fotofestival Naarden. Iris Haverkamp Begemann is currently working on a series about and with transgender refugees from Latin America, who form each other's 'chosen family'.
This Melkweg Expo is made possible thanks to the support of the Mondriaan Fonds and Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst (AFK).
Melkweg Expo is an exhibition space for contemporary photography and a platform for young artists, located in the heart of Amsterdam. With a focus on photography that explores identity, society and pop culture, the exhibition space is also known to occasionally place other forms of visual art alongside photography with conviction. Characterized by a distinctly playful and accessible approach, Melkweg Expo seeks to unveil high quality art – art that is innovative, engaging and inclusive.