By drawing a parallel between Queen Nefertiti and her own sister, Devonia, O’Grady forges the bonds of a fictive kinship that transcends time and space. This is one of 16 diptychs which comprise her Miscegenated Family Album, a highly autobiographical body of work which has its roots in an earlier performance piece.
The series begins with Sisters I, where we are introduced to the two leading women in this story. It is through them that relationships are traced as family members are revealed; for instance, Nefertiti’s daughter, Merytaten, juxtaposed with Devonia’s daughter, Candace. Carved in stone or captured on film, the story returns to them as they are pictured marking life’s milestones- Devonia at a wedding opposite Nefertiti performing an Aten ritual- or engaging in demonstrations of maternal affection.
Devonia was clearly a figure who loomed large in O’Grady’s life. The two had been estranged for years, though luckily they did reconcile before Devonia passed away unexpectedly. It was shortly after this time when O’Grady traveled to Egypt and, while meditating on family and loss, found a new sense of belonging. Though born in Boston to mixed race parents from Jamaica, she found herself, “surrounded for the first time by people who looked like me.”
Focusing on visual similarities, she was able to draw a thread between an ordinary contemporary family and a royal family of ancient Egypt. In doing so, she suggests that there are universal conditions of family life, complete with complicated relationships, and that one’s personal history can be as significant as their cultural history.