This is What Home Feels Like
By Khandan Rashid
I have one memory of my grandfather when he visited our home in London (1989). Sitting in the corner armchair he held my hands and balancing my feet on his, raised me up as high as he could. His smile and warmth are the two things I remember about him. That would be my first and last memory shared with him. For this reason, I love sifting through old family photo albums and listening to my mum share his stories, even more as I get older, as a constant reminder of his life.
My parents fled Iraq during the 1980’s; leaving behind their home and their belongings. This chapter in their lives has never been a topic of conversation for reasons I understand more as years go by. The only photographs they kept with them for the first few years were the portrait photos taken of us for official papers; necessary for documenting the journey to begin our new life in London.
Growing up in the UK the concept of our Iraqi identity was unknown to me; as was the word refugee. I had no reason to think of going “back home” because home was London for me. For the most part; our childhood did not offer my sister and I any visual understanding of what home in Iraq was like. As years went by; family friends travelling back to Iraq would bring us back photos of relatives, these were often marked on the reverse side with written accounts of daily life and family developments. For my parents it was a means of feeling closer to home, for my sister and I the people in these images were strangers.
Then came 2001 when we landed in north Iraq for the first time. Thinking back to that summer; I never thought of the emotional reunion that took place between my parents and their home that they had not seen for almost two decades. They had been living all these years in a country that did not have the same sights, smells and feelings of their childhood. I can only imagine the immense feeling of nostalgia that welcomed them home. This feeling of returning home was not only reserved for my parents. Walking into my grandparent’s home for the first time, seeing the hanging rug of my grandfather’s portrait; a photograph my sister and I were introduced to as children, I felt that I belonged here. There was my identity; my ancestry looking back at me in a land I had never known but that felt so strongly of home.
That feeling of home and nostalgia only becomes stronger with each visit; as I sift through dozens of photographs of my grandparents and from my parent’s youth in Kurdistan and Baghdad. On my last visit home I hold up a photograph; a Polaroid of my maternal grandfather with my Uncle when they visited London. They are in Trafalgar Square feeding the birds and I feel that familiar warmth and realise how nostalgic it must feel to remember someone or a memory you shared together; so sincerely. Collecting these photographs is a way of forming my own narrative of home and identity and each image holds an integral part of our own history that will never fade.
Khandan Rashid is a London based photographer with a passion for archiving family photographs from the 1940’s to the 1980’s in Iraq. You can follow her work on instagram @khndnr