"This is a picture of my Oma, painted by my aunty. In later years, my aunt took care of her. My mum chose the frame, so there’s that element of her as well. I was seven when this was painted. It’s always been in my Dutch family homes. When I look at it, I’m transported back to where it would hang above the piano in my Oma’s flat, then in my aunty’s house.
When my Oma passed away, it moved to my aunt's home. It was passed on to my mum upon my aunt's death, and eventually it was sent to me in NZ. We are all connected deeply in different ways to this picture. It represents the legacy my aunty left through her creativity, which is why it’s so important to me to have her paintings.
I understand my Oma more now looking at this painting. She lived in a flat and didn’t go out much. She had this pigeon, which you can see in the picture. She seems very internal, looking down at this beautiful thing that she loves. I think maybe this was her way of bringing the outside world into her flat.
She only spoke a little English and I only understood a little bit of Dutch, so we connected in a deeper way, through energy rather than conversations. She emigrated from Holland to Australia in the early 70s, then my mum got pregnant with me so she came back, to be my Oma. As a child I always remember her telling me about Australia and all the beautiful things she remembered. I always knew I wanted to go to Australia and that was what prompted my trip to come overseas from the UK. I never planned to emigrate, it just happened. I never realised the repercussions of leaving and how it affected my family. I’ve now realised how painful it’s been for my mum, to lose her only child. The irony is that I’m here in New Zealand living the dream and that I’ve brought my Oma with me.
It was such a process having all of these paintings and old family things shipped to me. My mum and I shared a journey together of tracking the boat every morning, it was a ritual we had together for six months. We ended up talking nearly every morning. Everything that I hold precious was on a ship on the high seas, and the Cumbre Vieja volcano was erupting en route. It was predicted to cause a mega tsunami. Every day my prayers and intentions were for the shipping.
I had a mantra that I repeated every day: 'Everything will arrive. Everything is safe and protected. It will arrive whole and intact with ease and grace'. 47 days was the original estimation of arrival, but it ended up taking six months. Once I had received the shipment and unwrapped everything, I hung the paintings up and I stared at this painting for five hours. I cried and cried. I was trembling. I didn’t realise just how stressed I’d been. What I’d been holding for six months was immense."
What does sentimentality mean to you?
"Sentimentality is when you have a very strong heart-connection with something. You can’t rationalise it. Yes, I’d much rather have my family members, but I can’t, so therefore my sentimental connection to these things is way more important. I’m really grateful that I have a strong sense of sentimentality, it shows what’s important to me, that I have an open heart and that I’m a human being, with emotions, and attachments. I treasure the connection that I feel for things.
I feel like there are these beautifully coloured invisible threads that connect me and weave me through to something. It’s a very visceral kind of emotion. I think that being sentimental is a very important and healthy part of being human. It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to connect with parts of our lives that we would otherwise forget. It keeps something alive, even though it’s finished and completed." - Katyayani, Golden Bay. Interview: Chloe Mason (Find her: @heartmedicinejourneys)