By Tolu Agbelusi.
At 14, I moved to the UK from Nigeria with my family. The dream was far more exciting than the reality of attending school with a different accent, in a different country, with people who thought and verbalised various assumptions, including that I must have been living in trees because that’s what people from Africa do.
I can laugh about it now, but then, belonging was a journey I was constantly navigating; trying to fit in and then not trying and having to figure out a sense of self that didn’t rely on belonging to a group of people. Over the years, whilst London has remained my base because family is here, I have lived on three other continents. With each move to a place where I was an inevitable stranger, I begun the process of recalibrating my sense of home: home and displacement are therefore two things I know well.
I am now in that category of people who are not Nigerian enough for Nigeria and not British enough for Britain. These days, I proudly say I am a combination everywhere I have been and everyone I’ve met. This is the complication of home as a concept. It is nation, it is family, it is birthplace, it is emotion and ancestry; whatever it is, it is meant to be comfortable— a place where you can be yourself, safely.
The reality of course is more complicated— born and bred Black British people whose experiences make clear that they are not accepted in the only place they can actually claim; refugees and asylum seekers who have witnessed atrocities in their home countries that will forever confuse the nostalgia of home, destitute asylum seekers who the government refuses status but can’t send back to their countries of origin, victims of domestic violence, etc. Sometimes home is conflict and confusion and memories that pull your heartstrings regardless.
As a poet who makes sense of the world through writing, doing a project that involved collecting stories from people around the country, turning them into poetry and then commissioning people to turn them into art was a no-brainer, at least as an idea. In reality, I am a lawyer who before this, had never applied for funding or put together an arts project. All of that makes this more exciting for me.
Home Is… is my debut project exploring home and displacement in collaboration with the 30+ people I interviewed around the country as well as several poets, Illustrators, an animator, actors, a dancer and a videographer. It tells diverse stories reflecting the experiences of minority ethnic individuals in Britain in an attempt to negate the invisibility that the terms ‘immigrant’ or ‘other’ inflict.
#HomeIs will have two productions in November.
The exhibition at Café Gallery Richmix on 15th November through to 27th November.
Ilé la Wà, our poetry-theatre performance at Contact Manchester on 12th November and Richmix, London on 27th November.
Find out more about the Home Is… project at www.whenifindhome.com