I Dream of Building a New Nest in a Place once Known as Home

It was in 1962 when my Grandparents Hubert and Matilda Douglas migrated from Jamaican to England. This was the year of Jamaica’s independence, just over fifty years ago now. I know my farther came over later in 1971, and the experience really unsettled him, he never quite felt at home in England. I often wonder if his being unsettled passed onto me as I move from place to place.  Being born in Manchester in the 80’s me and my cousins marked the first British born generation of our family. We would all gather at the family home, our Caribbean nest. I loved those times and Matilda’s cooking, always something on the hob and the scent of spices floating through the house. There were times of laughter, there were times of sorrow. When Matilda was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, I hadn’t anticipated how quickly she would lose her memory and abilities, that she would need full time care and subsequently lose the family home.

Hubert had passed on some years before and it felt as though a whole part of my world was disappearing with Matilda. Her stories, her memories, her home, all fading away, no longer can I smell the scent of her cooking, nor hear her sweet voice recall the family’s history. Our nest is empty. We do not gather there anymore, there is no flock, no afternoon rum or dominos. Everyone has flown off in different directions, and with that I think about freedom. We all have a new kind of freedom, the kind in which I know is not the same for our family back home; we have a privileged freedom which comes with our documents and status to this place. It means we have a kind of independence that does not rely on the community of family. I wonder if this was the freedom that my Grandparents anticipated in their long and difficult journey to Britain and the many years of labour and struggles that followed. I wondered if they imagined that with freedom also came the scattered flock, dispersed and moving outwards in many directions. Things change and I embrace this, but as I glide with the freedom I was given, I smell the change of season in the air and look upon the many birds migrating for the winter. I never liked the cold here and sense the movement in my wings drawn to warmer lands and I dream of building a new nest in a place once known as home.

The migrations project offers me new perspectives on journeying through narratives, and new insights and ways of looking at migration. I personally feel blessed to live in a land with such a thriving migrant community, where I learn so much about the world around me through the people that I meet here. There is a kind of knowing when you are from a migrant family that is hard to explain, like an acknowledging of being a person of the world, carrying many stories within your body of places known and unknown. Stories are so important for all of us, to tell and to listen to. It is the core of our human connection, consciousness, communication and the way in which we relate to each other and our environments. Storytelling, illustration, song, poetry and rhythm are ancient ritual practices embed in all our routes and I am curious about how they have evolved through creative visions combining new technologies and media. I am very excited about the collaboration between the artists on this project and very much looking forward to the readings of A Wing A Prey A Song on 30th October 2013.

Matilda and MeImage from the telling of my story Matilda and Me