Immigrant legacies: The little things in the suitcase
For Routed’s eleventh issue, we bring readers an exploration of home and the associated objects, crafts, and cultural expressions that become legacies when home is left behind. People on the move invariably carry with them traditions, memories, and a bond that stretches back in time, but also far in space.
From the immigrants remaking culinary cultures in Copenhagen, to the soups uniting generations of displaced Khmer people or connecting the Nigerian diaspora to their homeland, to sinigang as a symbol of Filipino-Japanese transnational exchange, food is a common means of finding acceptance in a new culture, or holding on to the idea of home. As well, the Turkish tea kettle helps to transcend borders, and the mundane ubiquity of Bulgarian yoghurt adopts a political significance when taken abroad. In Oxford, the Mixing Matters project celebrates the rich culinary heritage of its diverse communities, drawing on intimate memories nestled within larger social events.
Rituals and stories too are a means of forming legacy. Some may take on new meanings when transported across borders, while others are passed down through generations and, like sharing a gourd of mate, are spread across the world. Building intergenerational traditions through an old Christmas story, worn down by the passage of time, can be vital to creating a sense of belonging. The idea of home – a place of conflict and growth, belonging and becoming – can be kept alive by modern technology enabling migrants to swivel between the past and the present with ease, whilst a video installation creates a dialogue on migration from Spain to Algeria. Others forge a bicultural identity between the US and Mexico, revisiting border politics through the photo of a loved one; while Mexican immigrants are forced to relinquish their native language and learn English.
Balkan beat parties and a Mexican wrestler mask are used to stave off loneliness, homesickness and to make new friends, while objects in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon symbolise hope, despair and the stories of the Nakba that expelled them from their homeland. Stories of home, belonging and refuge are shared at the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, while the meaning of home during the current pandemic is given new light. Nostalgia often overwhelms those away from home and becomes the subject of books. Objects of Judaica tell the histories and legacies of the Jewish people through time and space, and others invite us to question what happens when objects are lost, emphasising the importance of listening and recording immigrant stories to remind ourselves of our own histories. Stories of travel are at once revealed through the items that adorn the shelves and walls of our homes, and the language we use to talk about the quotidian.
People on the move can find solidarity sometimes against the odds, from those living in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, to immigrant students celebrating their cultural identity in Hong Kong, to the melting pot of highlanders and Delhiites in a corner of India. Yoruba immigrants in Canada continue wearing Aso-ebi on special occasions, as an expression of identity and connection. A chessboard in Greece links activism with anarchism and helps to educate hundreds. The practice of voodoo carries on in New York, unfazed by religious oppression, community uprising and shifting public perception.
As many people across the world remain fixed in place due to the impact of COVID-19, we hope these stories of the little things in the suitcase remind you of the legacies of mobility in all of our lives. And once again, we thank all of our writers for their generosity in sharing their voices and their stories.