Traveling across Wales — whose people have been struggling for their identity ever since they lost their independence in the Middle Ages — Russian photographer Jana Romanova experimented with her own identity and tried to become Welsh, following advice from local people.
I’ve always been interested in how the identity of a group or a community works on a global level, taking into account the state of the world today, and especially in Russia, where the search for national identity has become a big issue during the years.
Being Russian — a foreigner in Wales — I talked to different people who consider themselves Welsh and asked them to describe what it is to be Welsh and what “Welsh identity” encompasses. My last question was if they thought I could also become Welsh. Out of almost 50 interviews in different parts of Wales, I only got one negative answer. Everybody else provided me with different recommendations for becoming Welsh — not just on paper, but in my heart.
This practice — an attempt to change nationality from inside more than from outside — gave lots of surprising results, the main one being that my own identity as a Russian started to play an important part. An example was that I was asked to read old Russian lyrics for a Welsh choir, but I didn’t know old Russian. Or when I was made to sit with my head uncovered in a church, which goes against my orthodox upbringing. There were many other situations which, taken together, highlight the issues concerning identity both of a community and of a single person.
‘Adopted Welsh’ was developed during a residency at Ffotogallery, Wales, as part of the EU Culture funded European Prospects project.