Exhibition Text by Helen Teede
People define themselves by time, place and circumstance.
- Valerie Kabov, 2016
You must permit me this awkward word – the unhomely – because it captures something of the estranging sense of the relocation of the home and the world in an unhallowed place.
- Homi K Bhabha, 1994
A question of identity that never arises until it is called into question is that of the home. It forms a seemingly stable and unwavering part of personal history, the fickleness of this stability only becoming apparent when the prospect of leaving or losing your home becomes a reality.
Zimbabwe’s history is rife with cases of displacement, relocation and migration deeply rooted in land-oriented conflict, a conflict entwined within the history of race relations in the country. Yet, a defining Zimbabwean characteristic that cuts across race lines is love for the land, a love that offers remarkable potential for reconciliation. The past year, the bond between land, identity and the home has shifted from being a concept about which I was ideologically interested because it has in recent history affected not only most Zimbabweans, but thousands of migrants on a global scale, to something which I have deeply felt on a personal level, being faced with the prospect of leaving my own home permanently.
If we define ourselves by time, place and circumstance, the time I have spent at my home growing up defines me, the place in which I grew up defines me, and the circumstance in which I now find myself makes these definitions uncertain. For me, this feeling of uncertainty rings true with Homi Bhabha’s use of the word “unhomely,” a word borrowed from Freud that refers to the uncanny, “that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been familiar.” 
This is what I did not understand about leaving or losing ones home, until experiencing it first hand: A place once safe, familiar, and stable, to which you have always been able to retreat, suddenly becomes something outside of you that you have to do without. The once intimate, domestic space becomes a site of history’s invasion.  The familiar becomes unfamiliar and the uncanny moment this shift produces is terrifying. Fragments of your personal life suddenly enter and become a part – albeit tiny – of the discourse of migration and displacement that occupies a major part of recent world history. It is a discourse intimately connected with violence, with which you are suddenly forced to engage. While the process is uncomfortable, it speaks to a shared humanity, fostering a commitment to be of a place and of a time that makes genuine reconciliation possible.
My paintings evoke a process of disentanglement from the place in which I grew up, the place that formed the beginnings of the structure of my soul. This body of work is deeply personal, but also speaks to a wider discourse of loss, dislocation and racial identity both in Zimbabwe and in the world today.
1. Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny, Trans. David Mclintock, Penguin, London, 2003, p. 124.
2. In the preface to his book, The Location of Culture, Bhabha, referring to the blurring of boundaries between private and public spaces writes, “The recesses of the domestic space become sites for history’s most intricate invasions.” (Homi K Bhabha, The Location of Culture, Routledge, New York, 1994, p. 19.)