Collecting stories – Thomas Nondh Jansen

Whilst browsing through the collected stories of the archive, and doing further research, I felt a sort of longing. Although I could not describe it, it was tangible; a longing for their children and grand-children, loved ones and the world they left behind.

I started wondering what home means and what it means to be ‘far away’. One word that describes this feeling well is the Welsh word ‘Hiraeth’, here-far away which describes the feeling of homesickness, although there is no direct translation.

Years ago I traveled through Asia and spent a month living in Bangkok, discovering the city that I am from but never grew up in. I hoped that, as the days passed, I would begin to feel at home again. Instead, I started missing Holland. This personal experience and the connection to the feeling of ‘missing’ made me wonder what reminds me of Thailand when I am in the Netherlands. Is it the weather, the sun or something else? I realized it was the subtle and nuanced day to day things that remind me of where I am from. Like wearing flipflops during the summer, seeing people sitting/squatting on a bench and looking at exotic fruits and vegetables at the market.

Nowadays I feel at home in the Netherlands. However I also feel at home at Thailand. And I can miss both worlds at the same time.

This feeling was the starting point of my interviews with several expats. I wondered what subtle and small things, habits or colours reminded them of home. For example one expat told me that sometimes she looks at the clock during work and wonders ‘what the real time would be in England’. Another expat is reminded of home by the colorful flowers in benches on the street. And one expat always has to smile when he sees a big traffic jam because that reminds him of the busy streets in Lebanon where he is from. These interviews are the inspiration for my photographs; a colourful flower, coffee pads, traffic jams, an ordinary office clock and my own miniature elephant collection from years ago.