Blog by Natalia Sedeleva
Teapot with nails and a bunch of strangers
Where are you from? What brings you here? Was it difficult for you to build a home? What does it mean to be Dutch? Sonia Hughes asks all sorts of questions, creating a metaphor for building a sense of belonging in her performance “I am from Reykjavik”.
For 4 days during the SPRING festival, Sonia Hughes builds and takes down a shelter in different locations. It is not simply a sculpture, but a ceremonial investigation of humans’ identity, entitlement, freedom, and sense of home.
The site for the construction of the sculpture is outlined in yellow lines. In different corners, there are simple pieces of furniture in the colour white oak. In one of the corners stands a flower. Each time, Sonia starts small – she builds a foundation, then walls, windows, and a conditional roof of a small house. Against the background of light wood, bright elements of the construction become clearly visible – purple stripes holding back the beams, a green teapot with nails, as well as Sonya's green dress, developing in the wind like an insatiable force of creation.
Many people pass by. Someone stops only for a second, someone offers help and others sit around in the hope of starting a conversation or asking a question. At the same time, Sonia herself makes sure not only to thank people for offering help but ask them about their stories and ancestors.
It is not a secret that in Utrecht finding a place to live can be quite challenging. The same can be said about immigrants striving to build friendly connections or a sense of belonging in a new environment. How do you begin feeling at home in a new country? What does it mean to be Dutch? The second question is exactly what Sonia asked her Dutch audience – and while some of them believe that being Dutch is not even special enough to talk about it, Sonia finds it amazing that most of them do not mind speaking English all the time. “Everything is relative, she says, when you come to England, local people are very patient and open-minded about foreigners speaking English with mistakes”. While Dutch people, according to the audience, would rather switch to English than listen to a poorly learned native language.
However, no matter where you go and where you come from, there is always a question for you: where are you from? And for that, despite being English, Sonia found just a perfect answer: “I am from Reykjavik”, as on the opposite to many other places, it creates no tension, but simple pure interaction – the same Sonia has with her construction – no bolts, no power tools, just hands and a pure desire to feel home anywhere.