One day while I was driving through Australia on Latitude 34 south , a project that had me tracing latitude 34 around the world – I became very tired, exhausted even. The weather was against – I had rain, thunder, storms, floods cold weather all along, even it was summer. I was getting tired as I had travelled though NZ and part of Australia already – non stop – chasing time, distance and pictures. I had enough, I wanted to go and sit still, recentre, regenerate, I wanted to go home.
Then, it hit home. I cannot go home – for there I have no home to come back to.
Home is a place to come back to – A reference to the childern story LittleThumbling from Charles Perrault who put white stones on the way to find his way back home.
What is home then? what does home really mean? I started asking myself this question. I started asking others this question. I had already started to wonder vaguely about the concept in recent years when I found it increasingly difficult to answer the question where are you from? Do you mean where i was born, what I have on my passport? my parents heritage? where I live? the latter being the most complicated to answer. Perhaps the real question should be where am I going. After home is where one starts from.
Home is where one starts from
I was born in Morocco, moved to Paris in my teens, then Montpellier, London and spent a lot of time in the past 4 years in Los Angeles, a place that I now call home, even if I ever only stay there with a tourist visa. This can open the door to the debate of displacement, those who want to live in a place they can’t because they dont have the right passport or born in the right border, and those who are forced to leave home land and only want o come back. I had also given up my “physical” base in London to be able to pursue the project Latitude 34, and travel across both 34th parrallel around the globe. Each time I go back to London or Los Angeles, I have to find a place to live call home, that I then have to leave and take whatever I have with me. This constant move and un- rooting created an unrest, a need for stillness, and longing for the feeling of knowing where you can come back to. Going places, going to the unknown has never been a problem for me quite the contrary, I am of the kind who gets bored easily and always looking for stimulation, looking to break the mirror over and over, looking for new ways of seeing, new experiences, new encounters with all what that brings in terms of understanding the world in a different way. Meeting other cultures, hearing or learning new languages are all ways to encounter new ways others have articulated and organised the world around them.
Most of us refer to the parents home, providing they are still together which leads me to wonder how do children of broken families refer to childhood home when they are tossed from a parent to another. Home land can also refer to home. Something I started to do lately for some strange reason, my parents being still in Morocco, yet I have not lived with them or in Morocco since my teens. this brings the idea of culture and identity whtin the context of home, and as we all know when we go visit someone in their home, it speaks of their culture, and the various places they have travelled, the cultures they love and from which they may have adopted something.
Self portrait in Mosaic -Mosaic to me speaks of a feeling of home and an attachment to Morocco.
Home is a feeling of security, and comfort I was often told. This led me to the painfull realisation that I never felt secure at home as a child, growing up in a dysfunctional mixed culture, cultures that clashed often and where i had great difficulties fitting in household ( yet who doesnt in some way). Safety, was definitely something I didnt experience, and felt always weary of my parents reaction or my siblings. In a family of three children I was the middle one, the odd one out, the one that spoke out what others didn’t want to hear, wore my heart on my sleeve and got myself in trouble for it was expected of me to never express emotions. Even in the arms of my mother, were tainted with nausea – for she smokes and it is something that always came between us. Coming from a european and Moroccan background is an advantageous on many levels but it was also very confusing when trying to find myself. Reading books,painting and ironically making little miniatures ” homes” and building cities was where I would escape and find comfort, along with my cat and parrot pet. On the subject of books, I think home is a place we can have a bookshelf. I cannot recall the number of times I stopped myself from buying a book, or was sad to leave a book behind in the past few years. Since I embarked on Lat 34 keeping costs as low as possible, I have been living off a suitcase since 2010. I can hardly carry that many books in a suitcase and I am no fan of kindle. To me books belong on a bookshelf.
London had felt like home for a while, until 2009, and even I do still have a warm feeling for the first week I go back to London, thanks to the memories but I can no longer see it as my home. Interestingly this feeling had started when I was looking for a house to buy in London. I now spend my time between LA, the place that feels like home, Morocco where culturally I have some attachment but where I can feel like a bird in a cage, London and the various places across the 34 parrallel. Why does LA feel like home? this question led me to Latitude 34, the light felt familiar, the way the sun hit the objects, the lenghts of the day, the desert and the sea, all this led me to feel something familiar and realise LA and my home town were at Latitude34.02. But thats not all. In Los Angeles, I built a network of very close friends, some I consider family now, and surprisingly only a handful of them are Angelinos. It is a place where I can cycle – and I realised being on my bike is a kind of home. Its a way to feel the city, feel the space proprioceptively, something that has always been very important to me, this kind of “boditude”. Tamin the space, feeling it like passing through its arteries, feeling its pulse, being one with the place. Something a car doesn’t do, we don’t sweat, get hot or cold in a car, well at least not in the same way, the car is a shield, a bubble. Yet, paradoxically it can also become a home for some too…. Cycling, I can barely do in Morocco, nor can I go for long hikes by myself to recentre myself. Home is therefore, as Pico Iyer puts it, more about the soul than the soil, even if there remains a notion of space and place for, the first one is a prerequisite, whereas the second alone doesn’t suffice to create a sense of home and belonging.
When I grow up
After belonging there is a sense of identity and is where you become yourself. One of the major reasons why in Morocco I feel unable to. Where home is is also where we shape our identity. However as I discovered lately, on being on the move isnt always such a good thing, unless we have a place to come back to. Recently I have been longing for silence and stillness. Even in Los Angeles, this big city, I have realised I had let go a lot of the routines I had prior to being a nomad, especially the one of meditating and having that moment of stillness and centering. Along with training and exercising outdoors –which is what I used to do everyday in London with kettlebells. I am convinced it helped me root – being close to the ground, nature, earth and the moments of stillness and centering. A base, a home brings that. It’s is therefore a place where to start from and a place to come back to. I am yet to figure out where ….