SUITCASE’s Editor-in-Chief Kate Hamilton introduces the new issue.
Home is where the heart is. It’s where you hang your hat. There is, according to another sentimental proverb, no place that’s quite like it.
Identity is often established in relation to where we call home. But the act of travel can call into question our sense of place. Does “home” refer to the town in which we were born or where we say that we’re from? Is it better defined by where we spend the majority of our time or by where we’ve been welcomed beyond measure, even if it’s not somewhere that we plan to put down roots? This issue explores the myriad ways that we can come to consider a destination as home.
It is common to feel a certain pull towards the places that are ours by birth. Romy Gill is a chef from West Bengal who has lived in the UK for almost a quarter of a century, although she returns to India to visit her family every year. During a recent trip to her native country she visited Ladakh, a land defined by the majesty of the Himalayan Mountains and a profound sense of calm. While travelling as a tourist in her own country, she gained fresh insight into a place that she thought she knew beyond bounds.
We can also feel an affinity to destinations because of heritage, a kind of connection that courses through ancestral lines. The city of Prague has always held significance for the author Rosalind Jana, whose grandmother grew up there before she was forced to flee Czechoslovakia at the age of 16. On a long weekend of tracing her family’s footsteps, Rosalind began to map her grandmother’s version of the city on to her own present-day experience. This sense of layering made the place feel more alive.
Today, the effects of globalisation mean that we can feasibly feel a connection to places to which we’ve never even been. Japan – with its tea ceremonies, artisan ceramics and tasting menus – has become a holy grail for food lovers. Last year the chef and writer Rosie Birkett embarked on a pilgrimage to Kyoto and Tokyo, a voyage she describes as a “culinary coming-of-age”.
In Italy food is intrinsically tied up with the notion of family and of home, as well being deeply entrenched in regional identity. The island of Sicily is a produce-proud land, but some of its best-loved ingredients originate from abroad – tomatoes from Spain, wheat from Greece and aubergines from Tunisia. It is perhaps the island’s culture of receptiveness to what is “other” that has helped the British chef and food writer, Rachel Roddy, integrate herself in the “impenetrable” town of Gela.
When diverse groups of people come to call the same place home, the result is often an intricately woven tapestry of cultures. The jungly state of Bahia is one of Brazil’s most ethnically diverse while Peru – with its wealth of indigenous peoples – is depicted as “home made up of many homes”. Meanwhile, in the United States, a cultural jambalaya exists along the Mexican border and there are pockets where Hispanic communities thrive in Miami. Even some of our most quintessentially British traditions are, when examined, the result of the international cross-pollination of ideas.
In today’s world it would be irresponsible to have a conversation about the notion of home without acknowledging the millions of people across the globe who have been displaced by conflict and persecution, who have left home out of necessity and not by choice. Through a series of photographs entitled Incoming, the Irish photographer Richard Mosse presents the refugee crisis in a new light. And we look at how London-based initiatives are rallying together to help migrant communities get back on their feet.
It is only against a notion of home that travel makes any sense. The very act of going “away” suggests a counterpoint, a place to which you will come back – until the point of return itself has shifted. It’s with this in mind that I am saying goodbye to my role as Editor-in-Chief at a magazine that has become, over the past five years, something of a touchstone for home. I hope you enjoy my final issue.