For many of us, life has dissolved into a dissonant merging of time, punctuated by moments of grief, unexpected isolation and deep uncertainty. But isolation has also sparked a desire to seek out unity, stability, and a sense of belonging. Within the parameters of our blurred reality, belonging and isolation are inextricably linked, and in this issue, we set out to compile a collection of art and literature that explores the theme of (un)belonging in a myriad of ways.
What does it mean to feel as though we belong, or that we don’t? How do we find our sense of belonging; is it experienced solely through our emotions and identity, or is it socially imposed? These questions demonstrate the essence of (un)belonging. The answer to these questions can be found within a sense of place, amongst friends or family, and ultimately, through finding our true purpose.
There is no singular blueprint to feel united. We crave community now more than ever. A neighbour extending a helping hand in a time of need. A passing ‘hello’ followed by a smile. It’s a realisation of our common dependency, the thread which runs through all of our lives. We were told that to feel truly knitted into the social fabric of society, we would need to conform to societal mores: the basis for happiness, opportunity, and belonging. But there is a striking difference between conformity and belonging; where conformity is complacent, belonging is active. Some need to leave home to find themselves and feel like they belong, while others haven’t the privilege of choice. From the outset for many, systemic inequality results in otherness. The challenges that people face can push them out to the margins. While we recognise that the ability to ‘belong’ to something can empower individuals, systemic refusal of belonging can similarly result in otherness. Belonging is powerful. Unbelonging can disempower people.
What is clear from the submissions we have received for this issue is an acknowledgement and identification with the theme, and an appetite to have this emotional reality represented. When we consider the theme of (un)belonging, it means we need to be confessional, and honest. It is a concept through which art becomes intimate, personal, and vulnerable. Being vulnerable allows us to engage in open dialogues and forge connections. We believe that exploring the theme can go a long way to amplify voices and drive a sense of community – towards a better understanding of inclusivity and diversity. This is precisely what the creatives in the issue have achieved, and for that we are grateful. Through their work, they have celebrated that feeling of unity, and have welcomed those that don’t feel it.
We welcome you. We invite you to explore this emotion of (un)belonging, in whatever way you identify with it.