2021 - Ongoing
London, England, United Kingdom
This is a photographic meditation on the idea of home, belonging, and identity. Most migration journeys are fuelled by hope, desire for change, and a fresh start. I was born in Poland, in the year that the Berlin Wall came down, a new dawn for Eastern Europe, and it was my mum’s desperation and craving for a new beginning and better future that encouraged her to uproot her family and move to the UK. We came to Scotland 20 years ago and this move created a physical and cultural rupture with my family and Polish society.
In this project, I explore the concept of migration as a starting point, but also look at its relationship with the past. Using self-portraiture, I wear my ancestors’ clothes, connect with my family heritage and highlight the war-torn complexity of Eastern Europe, in order to come to terms with my own migrant identity.
I created this project during the 2020/21 winter lockdown and was my own creative director, stylist, assistant, model, and photographer. The images were inspired by a personal need to reconcile parts of my family history and conversations with my mum.
My mum spent years bringing clothes and glassware from Poland to the UK, as these enabled her to maintain a physical bond with Polish culture. Keeping them facilitated a connection with the past and helped us cultivate the feeling of home, something that we struggled to achieve whilst living in the UK. Amongst many others, I include my mum’s first kitchen curtains, a handmade sheep coat, Coca Cola towels won in a radio competition, a New Years’ Eve collar smuggled from Thailand, and my mum’s dowry, all of which my mum has kept in our house over the years. I include items that are products of different migration journeys, some of which were smuggled across various borders during Communism in Poland. The process of temporarily “becoming” different women in my family was highly important in this project, as wearing these outfits, has enabled me to momentarily inhabit my mum’s, grandmothers’, and aunts’ lives and reconnect with my own identity as an immigrant in the UK. It was through this process that I had been able to acknowledge a significant part of my identity, which I felt I had to conceal in order to be accepted in British society.
Clothes contain archival information and are carriers of collective and public memory, they function as reminders of past moments and allow the memories of the deceased to exist within the present. I, therefore “wear” and “perform” my family history and reflect on how the memories and experiences of women in my family have shaped my identity.