In 2010 I moved to Canada. I brought with me two suitcases filled with essential items like clothes, my computer, photography equipment -- and not much more. My plan was simple: I would gradually build a home from scratch. At the time I thought this was the most reasonable way of begin one's life in a new country.

After a period of adaptation and settling down, I started feeling terribly homesick. Of course I missed my family, friends and the familiar aspects of my homeland, but what struck me most was that I also missed the belongings I'd left behind. I missed my things -- those items that apparently had no great practical importance or immediate relevance for my new life abroad. I realized that I was not as separate from my stuff as I'd supposed: those not-important objects were in fact part of who I thought I was.
So I went on a healing journey. I started talking to new Vancouver residents as well as others who had arrived in British Columbia ages ago, discussing our shared feelings of being far from our homelands. I asked them if they had brought any apparently superfluous item with them on their journey to Canada -- if they had packed anything in their personal luggage, that they didn't strictly need to bring but did so because they knew it would provide some comfort and link them to their past. I asked my fellow travellers if they felt these items produced a sense of home or maybe preserved, somehow, a vital part of their identities.
Most of the people I spoke to said that yes, indeed, they had brought along something. They shyly told me about these little treasures and invited me to see them, to handle them. I then photographed these people and their special items, creating a body of work that I call Treasures of Identity.
Since taking these photographs, I’ve learned how to cope with the feelings of being in a new land, rebuilding a life. The great lesson for me was that all I need to be who I am was always there to begin with, already within myself. These talisman-like objects might bring a sense of comfort but they can be lost or so easily broken. Empowerment comes when we can let go of things without letting go of ourselves. It's not easy, of course. But art is there to help us bridge the gap between the need to hold onto the physical objects that ground us, and the wish to let go of attachments and soar into the freedom of being our authentic selves. As The Beatles once sang, "there isn't anywhere you can be / that isn't where you're meant to be."
- Silmara Emde

The project is currently being exhibited at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Center

Tue Jul 3 – Fri Aug 31
M-F 9am-9:45pm, Sa-Su 9am-4:45pm
WINDOW Gallery, Roundhouse main entrance

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