An Archive of Expat Life Stories
A decade ago, three extraordinary expat women took history into their own hands. Concerned that the stories of people like them were not being recorded or studied, they established the Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC), an archive dedicated to collecting and preserving the life stories of expats around the world for academic research. Although the word “expat” has often been more narrowly used, for purposes of the EAC’s collection itsimply means anyone who lives temporarily in a country other than their “home” country.Now a professional archive welcoming academic researchers of varying disciplines from around the world, this spring the EAC celebrates its tenth year with an art exhibition and book honouring these founders, their vision, and the legacy that has grown from their dream of creating “a home for expat life stories.”
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the EAC has launched its most ambitious project yet: Saudade: an Intersection of Archives and Art. Named for a Portuguese word denoting longing for an absent beloved, the Saudade project gives the EAC an opportunity to explore its collection from an artistic angle, rather than the usual academic viewpoint. Ten artists, five resident in The Hague and five international, have each chosen something out of the EAC’s collection and used itas inspiration for an art piece. The artistic media they have used are varied, from photography to sculpture to rubber stamps and fabric printing. Tosymbolise the inherently transient nature of expat life, all the art pieces have been designed to fit together into the iconic EAC suitcase. The artistic journeys of the artists have turned out tobe deeply personal, as they have connected experiences from their own lives with the stories they have encountered in the archive. For example, a Dutch artist who spent several years of her childhood in Indonesia, found that her research in the collection of a Dutch family who lived in Indonesia around the same time period triggered many personal memories. Her art piece for Saudade was inspired in part byan occasion in which her brothers took her to the botanical gardens around the corner and dared her to stick her hand inside a carnivorous plant. Some of the artists conducted interviews, either with those whose personal collections reside in the EAC, or with other international people. One artist, adopted from Thailand as a young child, interviewed expats about smells, tastes, and other ephemeral things that reminded them oftheir home countries. His art is based on these associations, which are as varied as chaotic traffic jams, the smell of spices, or what is the “real” time inan expat’s home country. Saudade canbe viewed asan exploration of the sometimes complicated ways expats navigate the emotional side of their travels, including many absent, beloved things like home, family, or even aspects of personal identity. The art pieces in the suitcase recall choices made, places and people left behind, but also friendships, experiences, and perspective gained. The artists remind us that while our international paths may bedifferent, they inevitably mark us, change us, and develop usin ways we never could have imagined had we stayed at home.
Source: Expatriate Archive Centre
2018 Den haag