Heimat. Home. The close environment that is understandable and transparent – in contrast to foreignness and alienation. Yet, we often live in places that are ever changing. We may even ourselves be a result of immigration, being part of and driving the change.
In my 2 weeks in Florence, I saw countless tourists, American students and migrants. A large percentage of the people there were not locals. During the 15thand 16thcentury, the city of Florence might not have been the tourist center it is today, but it was definitely a political capital, attracting politically-ambitious Florentines from around the republic. It was perhaps like today’s Washington DC. Being an international student studying in DC, I am just one of the many people from around the world who have moved to this city for better opportunities. While I may call this place my adopted home for 4 years, I am part of the constant change of this city, a city that someone else calls home.
Back in Singapore, it is a role reversal for me. Being born In Singapore and having Singaporean parents, I had been given a citizenship when I was born. Yet, Singapore is also defined by the many foreigners and migrant workers that work and live there, not just its citizens. Without these people, the city would not be able to become what it is today, nor progress to its desired state in the future.
Director Low Siew Hua, in this film “A Land Imagined”, explores the costs of imaginations. In our effort to shape and progress our home into the perfect imagined home, we become dependent on migrant workers, foreign expats and many others who help develop the city. Yet, we only want the change that we have imagined. Anything outside that is a threat to our comfort and our sense of home. As a result, we push those who have helped us realize our imaginations into the blind spots of larger society. While they may themselves have adopted the city as their home, they remain invisible and imaginary.