For an artist named Detour, a very deliberate trip to Tanzania changed everything.
All images via Upworthy.
Thomas "Detour" Evans was there as part of an outreach program. He didn't know the language or the culture, yet it was being outside of his comfort zone that made him feel most at home.
Which sparked the question: Where was home, originally?
The curiosity excited Evans. So much so that as soon as he came back to the U.S., he took an AncestryDNA test to dive deeper into his heritage.
When Evans got the answer he was looking for, he turned it into one of the most inspiring works of art in his career. More importantly, he sparked a much-needed conversation in the community.
The moving experience led Evans to start the "They Still Live" project.
It's a photography exhibition in collaboration with art collector Paul Hamilton.
Evans took some of Hamilton's traditional African masks, paired them with different members of the African-American community who took AncestryDNA tests, and started snapping some amazing shots of them in modern-day settings.
"As African-Americans, we still have some of that DNA within us," Evans explains. "We want to show it visually."
Well, the results are fascinating.
I mean, how awesome is this?
One of the coolest parts? The models for the shoot actually learned their AncestryDNA results at the show itself.
More than anything, "They Still Live" is a project that's bringing the community together and engaging young people in the arts.
During the exhibition, people even marked places on maps that showed where they believed their ancestors were from. From there, those that attended the event would spark conversations with others about the origins of their ancestors.
"When people were learning about themselves," Evans says, "you saw other people learning about themselves as well."
"It helped bridge a gap between us as people, and it kind of helps you just learn more about what's in your community."
In fact, with the help of activist Panama Soweto, Evans is now expanding his project to help 40 young people who are at risk of gang involvement.
The youths will start by creating their own mask based on how they see themselves. Then, after three months, the youths will do it all over again. Only this time, they'll have their AncestryDNA test results with them.*
"If you understand where you've come from," Soweto adds, "then the negative things that we put with ourselves every day in order to get by, we can chip away at them if we truly have a unique understanding of each other’s experiences and what that really means."
Each and every one of us has a unique story to tell. And sharing those stories with others only makes our bond even stronger.
As we learn more about the richness of our past and shared history, it undoubtedly lights the way towards a brighter and more unified future.
"Everyone has this background that they can shine a light on," Evans says. "And I want to try to give that to everybody, and this was a really unique way of doing it."
Watch how the entire experience unfolded right here:
This artist created a beautiful and moving photography series, inspired by the results of this AncestryDNA test.Posted by Upworthy on Friday, June 30, 2017
*The AncestryDNA service is intended for adults. Minors can only use AncestryDNA with the consent of their parent or guardian.