Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Last week, the Et Cetera Collective had the pleasure of interviewing Danica Gim—an artist and poet commended for her empowering work. Read it below!
Tell us about yourself! How have your lived experiences shaped who you are today? I was born and raised in a tiny country in Europe, called the Netherlands. I grew up in a very happy family with my parents and one younger brother. My parents met traveling as flight attendants, so traveling has always been a big part of my life. At the same time, I also grew up in a very religious household, Christianity was (and still is) the most important part of my parents’ life.
I think I see myself struggling with religion as the biggest journey I have been on, since it has been so very present since the day I was born. My parents only taught me wonderful things in that aspect and are the prime example on how to use your faith for good, but as I got older and was confronted more and more with the real world, I realized that there were some things about this religion I simply couldn’t get behind. I saw people use it for anything but good and just for their own gain. I started questioning a lot of things, but at the same time, I was terrified to let something go that was such a significant part of not only my life but of the life of everyone around me.
When I was 23 I moved to Vancouver, Canada for an internship. Suddenly I was confronted with all these wonderful people with all these very different beliefs. For the first time I completely stepped out of the environment I was raised in and it changed me forever. I could no longer say I believed what I was raised to believe. Explaining that change to my family has been one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but I wouldn’t change it. I have never been happier than where I am right now.
2. What does your poetry mean to you? What impact do you hope it will have on your readers? My poetry is a way to express my deepest feelings. To be honest, I find it really hard to write poetry when I’m in a content place. I have to feel strong and powerful emotions in order to write. I need to be sad, angry, lonely, head over heels in love to write some of my better work. Reading work from other poets helped me not only to feel less alone, but also to put my own feelings into words. After all, how often do we say ‘I don’t have the words to express this’?
I think this is where poets come in. They give us the words. If anything, I hope that’s the impact it will have on my readers: that they suddenly are able to understand a certain part of themselves a little better, that they feel a little less alone because they read my poetry.
3. From where do you draw the majority of your inspiration? When it comes to my art? Women. I love women. I think we are the most interesting creatures out there, in both shape, mind, and diversity. It’s not the ‘gender’ alone that inspires me—it’s the feminine energy we all carry. I also love anything universe related. Ever since I was a child, I was obsessed with the night sky. You’ll often see the moon in my art works. It gives me the feeling we are part of something bigger, something we are connected to no matter what.
4. We'd love to hear about your artistic tastes; can you tell us about your favourite piece of artwork, song, or literature? People often ask me about my favorite book and expect some intellectual answer or some underground work of poetry, but the truth is that my favorite books are children’s books. I love Ronja the Robber’s Daughter and the Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. Most people will know her from Pippi Longstocking, but she wrote so many more brilliant stories. Her books remind me of my own childhood. The way she writes makes you feel like you can taste the food, feel the wind, see the forests—like you found a bundle of magic.
Another favorite of mine is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. The trilogy is about a girl who can literally bring stories to life by reading them out loud. They attempted to make a movie of it—avoid that at all costs. Read the books. They are amazing!
I also think the movie Cloud Atlas is an amazing piece of art by the Wachowski sisters. So ahead of its time and so underrated. Lana Wachowski also created the series Sense8, which is equally breathtaking, in my opinion. I guess what all these works have in common is that they are created by some amazing womxn. 5. In your opinion, what normative changes need to occur in society to allow individuals of all intersectionalities to flourish? The idea that women are a little less capable of man is reinforced in a lot of parts of our society and I think religion is a big root of that. And I think this is valid for all situations where equality is not present. We have come a long way from not being allowed to vote, from being expected to be obedient wives and mothers that couldn’t work to where we are now. Unfortunately, that’s still not the case for every woman or every person. We should use our privilege to keep speaking up for those that can’t. As long as not all of us are free to choose, none of us are. So we can take that power back by speaking up. That’s what I try to do through my writing, but everyone can have their own way of doing so.
6. What is the largest obstacle you have had to overcome, either as a writer or as a person? I grew up very religious. (My parents would not like me saying that: they would prefer to say I grew up with a relationship to God rather than religious.) But the truth is, religion remains religion no matter what you decide to call it. And it came with its own challenges. Its own moral questions.
When you think you have all the answers to mortality, to the creation of this world, to God’s will, there is not a lot of room for real questions. As I grew older, I was confused as to why me kissing another woman would be bad. Why loving them would be bad. Why other people who believed different things were doomed for eternity. But wondering about these things is different than reprogramming your entire belief system.
For more than two decades, I was told a certain truth. To deviate from that is the most scary and lonely thing I have ever done. Sometimes, I still find myself looking for answers to fill up the hole it left inside—but I knew it was the right choice, because despite what I was taught, I knew there was something fundamentally wrong about condemning another human being over their own life choices. Stepping away from religion might have been my biggest obstacle, but it has also been my greatest freedom. And stepping away from religion didn’t mean I stepped away from God. It just meant that God and I ran off together and no longer carried the burden of having to judge the world for its sins.
7. Are there any words you'd like to impart in young womxn in the modern world? Be kind to other womxn. We live in a world that loves to pit womxn against each other. We see it in media, in movies, in magazines and even in books. But we have so much in common and are so much stronger together if we just stop seeing each other as a threat! We also live in world that is making progress but because of that also reveals a lot of ugly sides in human beings. You were not meant to be a quiet voice.
It’s ingrained in us that we always have a little less too say. It's ingrained in us through the small things. It’s ingrained in us through religion, through the social standards that find their fundament in that same religion, through the way we are represented in numbers in politics and other higher-ranking positions. But a change is coming and you can be part of that change by raising your voice. You deserve to be heard. Remain honest, remain kind, remain compassionate, and all other soft things we are taught as a woman. But also be loud, fierce, and unapologetic!
8. Do you have any advice for your readers at large? Wash. Your. Hands.
Seriously, I hope you’re all safe and healthy during these crazy times. Be soft with yourself; being human is a fragile thing and we are all experiencing something very unusual. Everyone is suffering, one way or another. So don’t forget to be kind to others as well!
9. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Danica! Where can we find more of your work? You can find most of my work on my Instagram page, and you can support me by buying prints of my illustrations at www.danicagim.com! I’m currently running a Pen Pal program where you can be matched with someone to write letters in order to battle isolation and loneliness in this time of quarantine!
Note: Responses have been edited for concision.