Tuesday, May 16, 2006

15. Global Citizen (We Are All Refugees)

As part of the 33 book I wanted to dedicate a double page spread to a diagramatic illustration of my nationality. "Where are you from" has been a question I've grown up with. It's never been an easy one to answer and my responses are often edited to suit the person asking the question. The following is a typical attempt:

"Well, I am not exactly English. (The most British bit of me is my accent). I was actually born in Switzerland, but I'm not Swiss - I was born in Zurich because my mother didn't want me to be born in a hospital in Baghdad. I hold both UK and NZ passports. Although, I never have lived in New Zealand..."

I lived with a sense of being 'foreign' and ' just a visitor' with a permanent yearning for 'elsewhere' for most of my 25 years in the UK. The place I felt most at home in Britain, was Wales. I still feel an almost visceral connection to Wales (where I went to Uni) that is always a surprise. I love the place but could not call it home...home to me is where I can hear crickets at night. Australia really is my home.

How much does history or a previous generation impact on your personal sense of nationality?Until very recently, a sense of belonging hinged on a singular national culture or identity. Now so many of us drift around the world mediated by technology and super fast communications - we are all increasingly global citizens whether we choose to be or not. Despite or because of this freedom, we travel with a permanent sense of yearning (well at least I used to) for a sense of belonging, a sense of home.

I could illustrate my nationality in context with my immediate family. My picture of my nationality would, no doubt, differ from the perceptions of my immediate family members. We are not a close tribe but a collection of diverse individuals. Does my brother feel more American than British, more British than a New Zealander? Does my mother now feel wholly American? They are both US citizens now and don't seem to yearn to live elsewhere. I could never live in the US maybe because I spent longer in the UK than either my mother or brother.

My family is a collection of 'Global Citizens' then again, only based on the countries we've collectively lived and worked in. I could create a world map just showing the countries we've lived in and remove the rest - that would effectively be 'our world' or 'nation' - those of our collective history. An illustration of the atomised modern family.

Maps are the scientifcally correct, diagramatic summary of the world - a visual representation of all that is known, conquered and controlled. The illustration I would need to make would map the anatomy and meaning of nationality as it is felt in the heart but hard to define on paper.

I am fascinated by crimes from the map room

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