Before I was Born 2020
In Before I Was Born, Tja Ling illustrates the story of her family’s journey from China to the Netherlands, between the 1930s and 1970s, in 14 interconnected pencil drawings. Out of respect and admiration for the way her (grand)-parents built a life for themselves with all the challenges they have had to face, migrating without any formal education or knowledge of the local language. These drawings are a chronicle of pride, strength and respect. A narrative of a child discovering why her parents are the way they are, why they did what they did and how, ultimately, their experiences were destined to also shape her, even before she was born.
The unique binding method ensures that all drawings are connected without the interruption of a page border. When fully opened, the book measures 4.75m in length. Due to the leporello binding, the book can be browsed in 2 directions. There are 2 ‘sides’ to the book, just as there are 2 sides to every story.
Publisher: Jap Sam Books, Prinsenbeek, the Netherlands
Book Design: Tina de Souter
Text: Florinsz van Dijk
Chinese translation: Mel Chan
Printed on: Munken Lynx Rough, Munken Lynx and Keaykolour Particles Snow
Photography: Justina Nekrašaitė, The Book Photographer
Also made possible by Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Stichting Stokroos, Fiep Westendorp Foundation, Amsterdam Museum
Original drawings on display at Amsterdam Museum from 11th of Dec 2020 until 25th of July 2021
Podcast at Kunst is Lang about the project (Dutch only)