In reflection upon my recent experiences of immigration I realised that margins are often (but not always) where we choose to be. I realise that my position of being an immigrant to Australia is a choice to live within a margin. This position of living within the margin I experience as complex, ambiguous and blurred, because my physical appearance is not removed from the more dominantly Anglo-Australian, but my sense of belonging and my identities are still firmly tied up and connected to Africa and Namibia where I was born. As an immigrant to Australia walking down the mixed crowds of Rundle Mall in Adelaide still fills me with a strong sense of being an outsider and over the past six years frequent strong reactions towards my foreign accent only re-enforced these feelings.
My more recent decision to live and work in Ceduna, a regional town situated on the West Coast of South Australia and nine hours’ drive from the capital city Adelaide is also a choice to live within a geographical margin. Although in Australia I came to experience living ‘in the sticks’, which is a local expression for living isolated or in remote places, remote living is not altogether a foreign experience. In 2008 – 2009 I also worked in remote locations in northern Namibia. The connector between Namibia and Australia is that in both cases I was drawn to these remote places due to working with regionally based artists who all live marginalised lives due to geographic isolation and economic disadvantage.
What draws me to, and where are my margins? I perceive margins as spaces where I can challenge and work on the impossible through discovering infinite possibilities. Margins allow me to rebel against the impossible. In these spaces I resist becoming an unrecognisable substance of the main stream as I am able to continue discovering the creativity in both myself and others. In the margin I am able to resist losing my identity.
Answering the question ‘where is my margin’ is perhaps more difficult, because a friend recently commented that she admires the way I do not see borders and boundaries (as hindrances or limitations), but prefer to think and plan beyond them. This does not mean that I think from the position of the centre, but rather that I negotiate through and around centres and perhaps other borders. One of my academic mentors, and philosopher uncle, often reminded me in the past that only those who have experienced ‘the centre’ have choices about their margins an marginality. Is this perhaps why I continue to find myself within margins – existing, living and working amongst the marginalised? I lived through hybrid experiences of being part of the centre and the margin and I believe it has shaped my affinity for the margin. This is certainly a position I want to explore in the MargintoMargin research project, partly as an artist but also as a researcher.
The image is an illustrated photograph of a Ceduna Sunset.
By Melanie Sarantou