“Home” is difficult to translate.
Home is not just construction work and it is not about furniture.
We make a home, and home also makes us.
We welcome with our hands into our home.
My relationship with and understanding of ‘home’ shifts with time. Restless at 16/17 I couldn’t wait to leave ‘home’, to become independent, then home seemed to be holding me back. I spent the next 17 years renting rooms – and moving every 18 months. These houses were never home, they were where I lived and slept. When eventually I decided to settle down and to raise a family of my own, I bought the place I now call home. I sit at ‘home’ and write this text, listening to the familiar sounds, the birds, the buses the people passing by my window. An inner city home, different from the suburban one where I grew up, a place that I still refer to as home. I also call this city my home. Growing up I never ‘felt’ at home in the UK, until I left to study in the USA, and tried to settle temporarily in a small town in the Mid West. I didn’t expect to feel homesick … to feel foreign … to be labelled an alien. I tried to make it my ‘home’… I furnished my apartment with thrift store finds and yard sale junk … but I just couldn’t stay… I couldn’t sleep … it was a difficult year. My studio was situated underground, in the basement of a small wooden house – it rained every weekend and I would return on Monday to find it flooded and damp … I was lost … I began to make work with low grade material and catalogued the everyday sounds that I heard, the storm warning siren, the laundromat sign, the torrential train … Lost until a visiting artist from South Africa, Willem Boschoff, saw my work and identified and said that it revealed deracination. I made plans to travel, to leave and return home … changed. The photograph shows the work I made in my studio at that time … when I longed for home. My art practice continues to deal with issues of hospitality, the estrangement of self and others, and can be seen at: http://www.heatherconnelly.co.uk/translationzones/
Quan cap mà hi ha a l’abast
i el vent del nord engega
no tindré descans ni recer
quan l’heura em puge per les cames,
quan el vent fred gele la pell,
i tu hi sigues quiet i
menges amb fàstic el pà
mullat de llet.
La llet que rega aquesta terra
i escriu totes les lletres
— fins el moment.
La llet del món prohibit de Medusa.
I amb canyella i llimona
bull amb bombolles de sucre
la vida d’estiu a la placeta,
i l’olor de frità des de la terrassa,
perfum de tomates i pebreres,
ceba i tonyina i ou dur.
La porta oberta,
les dones a la cuina
entre i ixen i amb rialles i plors
cada coca, cada empanada,
cada pastís, cada cor.
When no hand is around
and the Northern wind blows
I shall have neither rest nor shelter
when the ivy climbs up my thighs,
when the cold wind freezes my skin,
and you stay still
and eat the bread soaked in milk
The milk that waters this land
and writes all the letters
— until now.
The forbidden milk of Medusa’s world.
It boils with cinnamon and lemon
and bubbles of sugar
the summer life at home,
the smell of ratatouille from the terrace,
perfume of tomatoes and green peppers,
onion and tuna and boiled egg.
The door open,
women in the kitchen
coming in and out
laughing and crying
drawing every piece of bread,
Every pasty, every heart, every cake.
Translation by Noèlia Díaz-Vicedo.
This is the tree that grows outside the room where I spent my adolescence. You can see the last pink blooms on it – they appear every year in mid-May, and the tree turns into a dense cloud of magenta petals. It’s spectacular. I sometimes see the same trees in London, where I’ve lived for the past five years. I always recognize them not by their actual name, which I still don’t know, but by the fact that a tree of this kind grows outside of my childhood home. Home, for me, is this: recognition. Knowing something, or someone, from a different place, and being known, being recognized. It is, however, also the awareness that my tree will go on blooming whether I am there to see it or not; home is mutable, and goes on changing at its own pace, independently of me.
Home as myth/home as origin
As years pass, I have increasingly found myself thinking about home as my place of origin. This picture, slight out of focus, was taken during one of my trips back to my birth-city, after moving as a young student to London in the 1990s. The she-wolf with the two suckling twins is the iconic image of Rome’s own birth and origins. Rome has become an imagined place, a mythical and personal homeland far removed from current life, yet always present.
Home as mythical place of origin
A photograph from my grandparents’ family album, which was handed down to my father when they passed away. The man in the picture is my grandmother’s father, engine driver in the service of the Royal Bavarian State Railways. Here he is with his engine in 1918 – presumably just after the end of WWI, just before the company dropped the ‘Royal’ in its name. This photograph presents so much history – industrial history, European, German, Bavarian history – and a family story. Those different histories somehow present ‘home’ to me, my Bavarian home, my origins. But there’s another layer to this photograph, this digital photograph of two analogue photographs from almost 100 years ago. As a digital photo I can carry it with me, access it from anywhere on the cloud, when I travel between my homes, between ‘Heimat’ and ‘Wahlheimat’.