Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

Departing and Arriving: putting together the Visual Journeys exhibit for refuge week

While cobbling ideas and materials together for a display, to be presented in Hillhead Library, of Visual Journeys (a research project lead by my doctoral supervisor Dr. Evelyn Arizpe, which engages refugee, asylum seeker and native Scottish children in questions of migration and identity through the creative use of wordless picturebooks), Evelyn handed me Shaun Tan’s book “Sketches from a Nameless Land”. This is a companion to his wordless picturebook “The Arrival”. Being quite fascinated with the meta-fictive elements of literature (or, the creative practices that take place behind, through and within a piece of fiction), I quickly became engrossed in the descriptions of his writing and illustration processes producing the picturebook that has been the focus of Visual Journeys.

Alongside these preparations, I am concurrently curating my suitcase that will accompany me on a visit home to Canada very shortly. I have diligently filled with it Tonnock tea cakes, canisters of Earl Gray and tattie scones – unfamiliar delights for familiar friends. In doing this, I am struck by the range of experience along the continuum of arrivals and departures: some joyful like my own in this case (going to see an old friend get married on her family’s British Columbian Farm) and some painful, like that of some displaced children part-taking in this project. I noted Shaun Tan’s words on the reoccurring symbol of suitcases in his picturebook: he suggests that suitcases are “the only tangible evidence of a life suspended between a lost homeland and an unknown future” (Shaun Tan, 15). It seems that the symbol of the suitcase might serve as a strong organizing principle for this Visual Journeys exhibit.

-Carly Bagelman


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This entry was posted on June 1, 2011 by in Blogs and tagged .
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