After our successful collaboration last year with the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) capturing the stories behind people’s tattoos for Tattoo Tales, we were delighted when the museum asked us to work on their new temporary exhibition, Titanic Stories: Contemporary Voices.
The NMMC commissioned us to find 5 people who had moved from overseas and now live in Cornwall and to work closely with them to record their experiences and to share these through a series of digital stories, portraits and objects.
Over the months spent on this project, it’s fair to say that we have been on our own journey which we thought we’d share with you here.
We started the project as we always do, by sitting down together to think around the subject and write some questions we would like to later ask people in a recorded conversation. The questions just kept coming and the more we thought about it, the more apparent it was that people’s stories of migrating were woven in tightly with their life story, their emotions and who they are today. There were so many ways of approaching this… psychologically, physically and spiritually. Uprooting yourself from one place, whether this is forced or by choice and starting a new life, in a new place, is a HUGE journey to make. Migration is such a vast and sensitive theme, so it was extremely important to us that people who contributed felt respected and enjoyed their time working with us.
If you have been embedded in a place for life, you’re unlikely to think about the experience of uprooting and moving to a place where you don’t know the culture, the boundaries, the language and the people. By spending time asking people about their experiences we were able to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of migrating. It is not just physical movement from place to place, it’s the whole event that envelops you as a person. It’s the question of where and what ‘home’ is, of what it means to belong, of what you leave behind and how you manifest your own culture in a new place. It was this emotional side of migration that was so interesting and moving, and something we really wanted to share through the digital stories. We wanted to open people’s eyes to the human side of migration.
Through long conversations we recorded so much meaningful material that it became a real struggle to reduce these to the 3-minute long digital stories that we had been asked to produce. We simply couldn’t do it. So the final edits have each been squeezed to around 6 minutes, providing small glimpses into very different stories of migration.
We hope that people who watch these stories in the exhibition will come away questioning what it means to be a migrant and empathising with those who have made such a journey. We were able to witness this happening during a workshop we delivered at the NMMC, which brought together the people we had worked with and a lovely group of Cornish men and women, most of whom had never moved more than a few miles.
The Cornish contingent were bowled over by what people had been through, expressing a sense of wonder, admiration and empathy. The idea of belonging and of what home is, kept resurfacing and it was so lovely to see people connecting through the common language of story. After all, this is at the heart of our work.
We feel like we have just scratched the surface of this enormous topic and as people who know us well, know, we don’t like to leave stones unturned! So we are now looking into how we can explore the theme of belonging and migration further. If you are interested in talking with us about this or have a story to share, then we’d love to hear from you by phone or email.
Finally we want to express our sincere thanks to everybody we have been lucky enough to work with. You are all amazing.
For more on the project visit here.