Redefining home

Written by: Eleanor Thomson

This week, the London Breeze Film Festival proudly celebrates Refugee Week with a special screening of “Drift,” directed by Anthony Chen. Refugee Week, established in the UK in 1998, has a rich history of community-powered events dedicated to honouring and supporting refugees. The theme for this year, “Our Home”, calls on audiences to consider the essence of what constitutes a home, and its significance for individuals of all backgrounds. Dima Mekdad, Co-Chair of Refugee Week, explains that the celebration allows us to find “solace in our extraordinary human ability to hold grief and joy side by side”; It is in this joy in which we find resilience. 

“Drift” tells the story of an African refugee, Jaqueline, resolved to a life in isolation longing for a lost home. In her search for belonging, she finds unexpected companionship in a tour guide named Cellie. Through their bond, Anthony Chen explores how human connections transcend cultural and social barriers, ultimately eclipsing traditional values of what a ‘home’ is. 

‘Home’ is defined as “a dwelling place; a person’s house or abode; the fixed residence of a family or household.” Each understanding connotes, permanence, and a sense of inherent belonging. Initially, this definition resonated with my own perceptions. Yet, the Oxford Dictionary’s interpretation falls short of reality. Does this truly mean that immigrants and refugees lack a home? For the 448,620 refugees housed by the UK, as of 2023, the meaning of home is a far more complex than ours. In recognising this from a position of privilege, we achieve the union of joy and grief which Mekdad encourages through celebrating Refugee Week. 

When attempting to conceptualise what makes a ‘home’, several questions ran through my mind. Is it the material possessions held within a house? Is it the location? The family history and the people? Although many readers may acknowledge the latter as a key defining feature of a home, ultimately, home is a feeling unbound by linguistic or physical restrictions. 

The importance of accepting these complexities should not be understated. Black and white meanings within our language influence the way in which we perceive and treat immigrants. Without noticing, our lexis maintains the steadfast dichotomies which fragment our society. For instance, superficial connotations of ‘home’ further remove refugees from any sense of belonging here in the UK, justifying rhetoric that immigration endangers the myth of a cohesive British “culture, identity and values”, as stated by Nigel Farage in his Reform UK manifesto. 

These issues are increasingly present, and stem from stubborn understandings of what true belonging really means. It is perhaps through the evocative power of films that we can restore the human essence behind belonging, offering a nationwide antidote to the depersonalisation of refugee stories. 

In the search for a home, too often too many people look towards the destination and not the journey. Yet, nomadic or not, our homes are as mutable as our character. They fluctuate throughout our lives and are reaffirmed through social interactions and establishing a community, big or small. If ‘our home’ is where we truly belong, then it cannot fundamentally exist in isolation from the self. Home is established together and together, we belong.