Saudade . . . it’s a word the Portuguese use to describe longing for something absent and beloved. For the people whose stories are recorded in the Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC), often that absent and beloved thing is home. This year we celebrate ten years of collecting private letters, diaries, photographs, and other treasures from people who temporarily move to a country not their own, whether for work, study, love, or any other reason. The stories of these people are full of adventure, homesickness, ingenuity and interesting little moments of everyday life abroad.
Usually the people who use our material are researchers writing for an academic audience. But we wanted to find a way to bring the wonderful stories in the archive to a wider audience. So to celebrate our tenth anniversary, we have invited ten artists to take a fresh look at the archive and use archival material as inspiration for their art.
Five of the artists live in The Hague, the international Dutch city where the EAC makes its home, although they originally come from countries as far afield as Scotland and Japan.
The other five live abroad, and some have come from as far as Italy or California to see the material in the EAC.
Over the past year and a half, the artists have been acquainting themselves with their chosen archival pieces, interviewing the people who donated the material, and then working to create their art.
The artists are working in a wide variety of media, including sculpture, photography, performance, printing, painting, and more.
All ten art pieces must fit into The Suitcase, an antique piece of luggage that traveled the world with Judy Moody-Stuart, one of the EAC’s founders, crossing oceans, deserts, and bumpy roads as she moved from place to place.
In her own words,
"The Suitcase amongst other packages belonging to our 5 passengers on top of our Toyota landcruiser next to a route-marker barrel (bidon) and post in the middle of a northwards 12-day gravel route (Nigeria - Niger - Algeria) Saharan crossing. We were travelling alone, on gravel and sand, navigating from one bidon to the next; the standard safety-precaution in the eighties was not to leave one bidon until you could clearly get a bearing onto the next bidon.
. . . I think that you can make out The Suitcase lashed onto the back of the roof-rack - so that it could be reached by standing on the back bumper. Early on in Northern Nigeria we had got caught in a tropical downpour, and the suitcase had been unnoticedly lying in a puddle of water for days, which is how it acquired its corrugated bottom as the paper-composite dried out."
While she was living in The Hague in the 1990s, Judy found another use for her old suitcase – to store material that documented experiences of living abroad collected from expat families worldwide.
Judy and a few other women started collecting these life stories, which they published in two anthologies, Life on the move and Life Now. These books were followed ten years later by a third, more scholarly anthology, The Source Book.
After the publication of the books, they started an archive to preserve the material, and began collecting more stories from expats all over the world. Over the years, the suitcase has become a kind of mascot for the archive.
This iconic suitcase is the perfect home for the beautiful art the artists are creating. All ten pieces are designed to perfectly fit within the suitcase, providing a symbol of the many journeys taken by the materials in the archive, as well as their expat creators. These art objects and the suitcase that contains them are reminders of the precious things–both tangible and intangible–that expats take with them when they move to a new place.
As a companion to the Saudade project, we are creating a beautiful book documenting the artistic journeys of the artists.
As well as photos of the art pieces and the archival material that inspired them, the book will contain interviews with the artists about the sometimes intimate ways in which they came to know the people whose archival collections they studied.
To find out more about the Saudade project and read the words of the artists about their individual artistic journeys, visit the Saudade website.
If you would like to help Saudade financially, you can contribute using this information:
Subject Line: 10th Anniversary + your email address
Contributors of €30 or more will receive a complimentary copy of the book.
Thank you to Eran Zoref for the beautiful video!