Written by: Wendy Buendia
Art is complicated, beautiful, and emotional. It is why it has persisted for thousands of years as a way not only to preserve important events but communicate the significance of different cultures and cultural identities. The vibrant colors of a mural to the plucking of a guitar allow us to gain insight into what it meant to identify as a warrior, artist, merchant, human.
Exploring and embodying new identities is part of the human experience. Simona Smirnova explores this concept in her work as a singer. A prominent theme in her songs is exploring resolutions and balance between her various identities. She was born and raised in Lithuania by her Slavic mixed family.
“I consider myself Lithuanian, but I was born into a mixed family, a Slavic mixed family, so it’s a combination of Russian, Polish, Belarus[ians], Ukrainian, Jewish mix of my family and zero Lithuanian [descent] really!”
Simona was born in 1989, while Lithuania was breaking from the Soviet Union. History has shown us that in times of political unrest, the country will grapple with its identity as a nation, which greatly influences what its future will look like. Simona’s cultural identity was shaped early on because of this and learned to speak Lithuanian and integrated into Lithuanian culture. Simona spoke of finding identity by association and movement, “It’s interesting how you go through life and you try to define who you are and where you belong, and where is your home, and who is your family, who are your friends, where do you return, where do you go, where is your direction? It’s a puzzle for myself what culture I belong to.” During her early childhood years, there was uncertainty in roles, and young Simona felt it too. Art helped as a way to show to herself that she was needed. “I said this phrase; I’m needed somewhere.”
As for where she went, Simona moved to the U.S eight years ago to study at Berklee [College of Music] and has stayed to pursue a career as a singer. While studying at Berklee, Simona started laying the groundwork for her first album, Hunger Artist. “It’s a theme of abandonment, a theme of belonging, and a theme of individual versus the collective. That’s the theme I was dwelling on while I was composing.” Now based in New York, a melting pot of various cultures, she feels that she has found belonging.
In short, identity is complicated. But, art helps 🙂
Featured photo taken at the Lido Jazz Room, Melbourne, Australia.