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Charlotte Peys: Zondereigen

My name is Charlotte Peys. I live in Ghent (Belgium) and I recently graduated from the School of Arts in Ghent (Illustration Program). Before I ended up in Ghent, I studied Cultural Sciences at the University of Leuven (Belgium) and the University of Maastricht (The Netherlands). I wanted to find a way to combine those two courses in my master project so I researched the possible role of the illustrator as an anthropologist. I made an illustrated anthropological monograph about Zondereigen: a little rural village in Belgium. Before I started this project, I'd never heard of this village and I didn't know anyone who lived there. That was the starting point.

In 2013 I often stayed a week in the village. I made long walks, took more then 4000 pictures, recorded audio fragments, read documents in the archive of the centre for local ethnography, participated in typical activities such as the village fair and interviewed a lot of the inhabitants. All this information was then used to make drawings and write texts about Zondereigen. Together with the reflections I wrote, the drawings are collected in a hard cover book consisting of 192 pages. My own words are varied with quotes from the interviews.


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The end result is not an historical overview of the village, but a visual journey of my subjective experiences. Since I managed to get financial subsidies from three different parties, I was able to print the book at a professional printing office in an edition that is just big enough to give every household of Zondereigen a copy of the book.

Drawing for me is a way to investigate, to memorize, to collect and to tell stories. The idea of drawing as a way to discover goes back to the Italian Renaissance. In the evolution of visual representation, drawing and illustration played a fascinating role. They were believed to be able to register physical facts and represent the truth. Drawing was the only way to visually report about the curious creatures that explorers found in foreign lands or more simple: it was the only way to register the way to the foreign lands. Illustrations based on observation were founded in empiricism and were a part of the scientific way of thinking. Drawing visualized certain findings and in that way produced a certain kind of knowledge. Today, this close relation between illustration and science is less familiar.

In anthropology, there has been a shift from positivism to constructivism. An anthropologist is no longer someone who produces truths. New conceptions of seeing and knowing took form and we no longer believe that textual and visual material can objectively represent reality. This doubt about positivistic arguments concerning knowledge, truth and objectivity and a reflexive attitude towards one's own methods creates in my opinion the perfect background in anthropology to investigate new ways of visual representation like personal, subjective and creative ways of reporting.
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