When you grow up in the tropics, in front of the sea, colour is everywhere. Colour surrounds you wherever you look, from the sky, the birds, and the clothes people wear… I had a collection of bright coloured swimming suits and beach dresses, the flowers were always blooming and I don’t remember having a single grey or black item of clothing.
When I moved to Canada in 2009 from Venezuela, we went straight to Vancouver. My husband was finishing some studies there and I found a job as a nanny. I knew it was a city where rain was going to fall almost every day, but I was not prepared to see so much grey. The city is lovely, don’t get me wrong, we lived near Stanley park and I loved walking into the rainforest or smelling the ocean breeze, but when I looked up it was always grey.
Then I started noticing that all my clothes were a little bit “too bright” for the standard of what people around me were wearing. I felt out of place. I felt so out of place wherever I went, the bus, the movies, the market. So, I decided to tone it down, I got myself a bunch of greys and black clothing and put it on.
On one of my visits back home after a few months of changing my colour palette, my grandma Lina asked me why I was dressing that way. I told her the story: I felt out of place wearing my regular clothes, my colourful ones, and then brought out a photo album I have never paid attention to before.
The photo album was when she and my grandpa lived in Spain; they both worked for the Venezuelan consulate in the 1950s. The album started with their arrival in Spain and Grandma Lina wearing bright, colourful dresses and beautiful hats; as we moved towards the middle of the album, the dresses went into a different colour palette: grey, navy, red wine, maroon; her face was also very harsh, she didn’t look happy. She told me she went through the same experience as me 60 years earlier! I was so shocked because Lina was one of the sweetest and most bright souls I have ever met; I never thought my grandma would have gone through a season of life sad like that. She told me she felt out of place anytime there was any diplomatic function to attend. Grandma Lina even toned down her house decorations.
I asked what happened, how did she cope? Well… by owning her own ways and what she really liked and enjoyed. The colourful dresses came back and the dark ones away! She told me I had to hold on to my tropical roots and don’t give them up because of what “I thought people might like”. She was so right! That moment and that story changed how I see my life somehow. By the end of the photo album, the pictures were of parties overflowing with smiling people. There were pics of trips to different places where I could see Lina with a big smile on her face, beautiful dresses, and hats.
I can confidently say that a colourful life makes me happier. Bright dresses and blouses, shoes and socks definitely help! And the art around my house is also bright and bold. I am grateful I married someone who feels just like that too.
Cheers to a colourful life!
(Lorena Mibelli, artist)