Probably due to my many years of moving from place to place, I am very much invested in decoding and influencing the myriad ways that human migration plays into culture, individual and group identity, and (increasingly relevantly these days) politics across the globe.
My primary current focus is Hiraeth, an Amsterdam-based arts and culture organisation I co-founded in the summer of 2016. Hiraeth is a Welsh word denoting nostalgia for a home that no longer exists or never was. The Hiraeth project explores the many meanings of home, and chronicles the perennial human search for a place to belong, as expressed through the visual and literary arts. In our age, immigration, refugees, borders and walls have become political hot topics, and it can be easy to forget that behind each number is a face, a name and a story. At Hiraeth we give a voice to the diverse stories of people who move, whether for adventure, love, work or refuge, and honour them as an integral part of the human experience, building empathy through artistic expression.
The core of Hiraeth is a digital magazine that explores the idea of hiraeth through art and literary features. We also produce a podcast where we interview artists, writers, and academics from around the world about their personal stories and work in themes of migration and home. The Hiraeth team consists of creatives of various types who donate our time and talents to the Hiraeth project without compensation of any kind. We are concerned citizens who want the world to be a better place and believe that the stories we tell and listen to impact the way we see the world and how we behave, both individually and collectively.
Relatedly, I am interested in other initiatives that encourage and explore cultural heritage from below, i.e. how ordinary people and their stories contribute to and inform heritage narratives, particularly cross-culturally. From 2015-2018 I was employed at the Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC), a small private archive collecting primary sources documenting the lives of “expatriates” (temporary migrants) around the world for academic research. The collection focusses on ego documents including letters, diaries, blogs, photographs, scrapbooks, etc. While working there I ran the EAC’s public relations program, which encompasses strategic outreach to academic researchers, potential donors of material, and potential volunteers (since aside from a small core management team the EAC relies on volunteers for its archival work). One of my major goals was to grow and diversify the EAC’s collection, as well as expand into digital archiving, so I initiated a Twitter RoCur (Rotation Curation) and archiving project, as well as an archive of expat blogs.
With the EAC Director and our Artistic Director I originated and brought to fruition Saudade, a two-year project exploring the intersection of archives and art. We invited ten artists from around the world and working in different media to choose a piece from the EAC’s archival collection and use it as inspiration for an artistic response. The resulting art pieces formed an exhibition celebrating the EAC’s 10th anniversary, which has since gone on the road to archives, galleries and other locations around the Netherlands. As part of my work at the EAC I also coauthored a book chapter on the history of the EAC as a heritage-from-below initiative in an academic anthology, Global Mobilities: Refugees, Exiles, and Immigrants in Museums and Archives, edited by American scholar Amy K. Levin.
In my professional life prior to moving to Amsterdam in 2015 I did marketing strategy at corporates and startups, resulting in an accumulation of useful skills such as giving engaging presentations, getting the most out of limited budgets, and managing both in-house staff and virtual teams. I have significant experience with a variety of project management, graphic design, and web presence tools such as Trello, Canva, WordPress, Squarespace, Buffer, etc. I still do occasional consulting in this area, and even marketing work in special cases, with an emphasis on startups and pro bono social impact projects. Most recently, I created the website and marketing materials for Boonfroggle, a local Amsterdam startup.