Every culture understands the concept of home.
From its beginnings, the word has been imbued with a sense of belonging, of familiarity and identity with our homeland; a socio-political notion of loyalty to our mother country and over time, the concept has become more personal, entwining our culture, our family life and our sense of self.
In modern life, informed by a new global mobility, the word ‘home’ is becoming more complicated. Home for many people now spans multiple countries and cultures. In Australia, where almost everyone is a migrant or a refugee, where the political dialogue surrounding asylum seekers is troubling and our history with our own indigenous people is rife with misunderstanding and prejudice, the sense of belonging we’ve packed into our suitcase called ‘Home’ has been buried by confusion about our identity as a nation.
And from our modern lives and this confusion, sparks another notion of home. The home that we haven’t quite grasped yet. An intangible space of serenity, a yearning to find comfort in something – a landscape, an experience or culture outside our normal scope, a yearning for growth, a reformation of our identity.
For centuries arts culture have been examining this triptych of definitions; a physical homeland/landscape, a domestic safe harbour, a yearning for growth and belonging.
Poets and philosophers such as David Whyte have explored belonging and how to be at home in yourself. Edith Wharton wrote on how we can “feel at home in our aloneness” while Homer explored the narrative of homesickness in his epic tale The Odyssey. Artists like Preston Drum, have explored what home means to them via exhibitions like his “Home Coming and Goings” which featured visual works as well as live local music.
As part of the previous ‘Finding Home: Refugee and Asylum Seekers Art Exhibition’ at the Logan Art Gallery, Hesam Fetrati deploys satire, surrealism and assertive symbolism to express how diaspora can fracture your picture of home, in a similar way that Shaun Tan and Tsherin Sherpa’s work does.
Others like wrongly accused Ricky Jackson, remind us that art and culture can have a transformative power to make us feel at home.
Melbourne artist Timothy Rodgers shared stories relating to everyday items, in a series entitled Things that Move Us, as well as sketching multiple local milk bars and in doing so, examines how these things make up his idea of home.
As our world evolves, so do the foundations of what ‘home’ means to us. It could be likened to the German word Sehnsucht; translated as a deep pining, yearning or craving, or in a broader sense, something intensely missing. It is a word that is hard to encapsulate in English. It aims to capture the essence of all facets of life that are unfinished, or imperfect and has a sense of nostalgia entwined within it that is indicative of what we’d call home.
Our sehnsucht (pronounced zen:zoocht – [ˈzeːnzʊxt]) might represent the home we yearn for, or it might be what the Greek call sophrosyne: a healthy state of mind, characterised by self-control, moderation or a deep awareness of one’s true self, resulting in true happiness.
It might even be represented by the gaelic word caim; translated as “a sanctuary;” an invisible circle of protection, drawn around the body with the hand, to remind one of being safe and love, even in dark times.
Home might be the familiar apricity; latin for the warmth of the sun. Or it could be all of these things, nuanced by our history and our culture. Whatever it is, art and culture helps us to continue our exploration and engagement with these ideas so we can examine the collective ways in which we see the world or the future as our home.
What does home mean to you?