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Editor-in-Chief Kate Hamilton reflects on the four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine from 2016
It has been a whirlwind of a year. The UK voted to leave the EU, the US voted for Donald Trump and some of the world’s best-loved cultural legends died. “Post-truth” was named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries and Kanye West finally fell off the rails – to be frank, it’s surprising that more of us haven’t lost it along with him.
The notion of escapism acquired fresh significance in 2016; there has seldom been more cause to travel simply for the sake of getting away. And yet a number of global events, including terror attacks in destinations traditionally popular with holidaymakers, posed a threat to our ease of movement and the openness of our world.
As we near the end of this chaotic year it is important to remember that travelling to try to learn from cultures that are different from our own is one of the most effective tools that we have against inward-looking strains of thought. Today it is more crucial than ever to keep our minds open, even as our borders might appear to become more closed.
A message of openness is and has always been at the forefront of SUITCASE Magazine. Our emphasis is on listening to and working with locals, providing a platform for their stories as well as a showcase for the places that they call home. To quote A.A. Gill, the revered journalist who died from an aggressive form of cancer this month (a jab in the ribs at the final hurdle of 2016), our approach involves getting under the skin of a destination: “To treat a place as if it were a person, to go and listen to it, ask it questions, observe it the way you would interview a politician or a pop star.”
Yet we lay no claims to comprehensiveness. Rather than complete pictures of the people and places that we encounter, the stories that we tell are impressionistic snapshots – glimpses into a culture or a way of life; fragmentary yet compelling points of view. While we reflect on some of the destinations that we have visited in 2016, we hope that you feel inspired to travel through our pages next year. We also hope that we have encouraged you to explore on your own terms, and that together we can create a more fully realised portrait.
Volume 14 of SUITCASE Magazine took the lid off the art world, a sphere that is often viewed as elitist, confined to frames neatly arranged along white walls. Venturing off-canvas, we travelled to New York where we traced the footsteps of Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol and Patti Smith, while also escaping the city to meet a creative young community upstate in Hudson. In Mexico City we met a dynamic cast of artists across a variety of disciplines, and even in Oaxaca, where folk art takes centre stage, we found traditional crafts were being kept alive within a contemporary idiom. Similarly, age-old customs in Marrakech continue to thrive alongside more modern work. The art issue opened our eyes to some of the cultural contexts behind extraordinary creativity.
An exploration of what it means to “live well” informed our summer issue. We went in search of a “la dolce vita” in Florence and the city’s neighbouring vineyards, and found that Italians have been locating pleasure around the dinner table – in the form of good food, good wine and good company – for centuries. In Barcelona, a city with a relatively low cost of living, great weather and a beach, we came across Casa Bonay, a new hotel that has struck the right balance between local life and tourism. The state of Kerala has a legacy of multiculturalism and open-mindedness that makes it India’s happiest and most liberal state, while in Costa Rica and Belize we found that simple pleasures are often derived from a life lived in accordance with nature.
The spirit issue unofficially became known as the horse issue because an inordinate amount of the four-legged creatures ended up being depicted across the pages. Their presence in the magazine started to made sense when we realised that horses are a symbol of wild spirit and freedom without restraint. In this unbridled mood of discovery we met wranglers in the lively state of Texas, artists in historically charged Seville and hairdressers in the quirky desert getaway of Palm Springs. But we also visited Georgia, a country that is slowly beginning to distance itself from a troubled Soviet past, and Tibet, which has famously suffered years of persecution at the hands of China. Our findings in these complex places reminded us of the need to consider carefully the language that we use to describe destinations, especially those deemed “emerging” or “developing”.
Our latest volume, the Myths and Legends issue, focused on the narration of powerful stories – from fairy tales to great works of literature and art. Building upon the experiences of others as a framework for our own exploration, the result of this issue was a compilation of pilgrimage pieces: we explored Tangier in the footsteps of the Fauvist artist Matisse, saw Ireland through the eyes of the legendary poet W.B. Yeats, trekked through Yosemite on the trail of the conservationist John Muir, spoke to Denver-based band The Lumineers about Colorado and learnt about Naples via the author who has adopted the pseudonym Elena Ferrante. Great tales inspired our winter issue, and there is no doubt that powerful stories – in the form of fact and fiction, truth and lies have made an indelible mark on this year.
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