Because These Wings Are No Longer Wings to Fly

The hybrid condition of the second generation migrant opens up fascinating ways of playing with representation in art.
My father is Syrian, my mother Swiss and I was born in Morocco. My father as a first generation migrant used to tell us that we had no safety net and therefore integration was necessary.
However, as hybrid migrant, I chose to refuse the concept and the practice of assimilation. For me, assimilation impoverishes societies, hinders creativity and puts tolerance at risk. The hybrid identity is rich and offers a mix of backgrounds, voices, and belongings which the process of assimilation refuses and hides.
The migrant will feel eternally foreign, will for ever miss his home country and all he left behind when he departed, be it by force or by choice.
It is precisely in this fine space between the ideal of a new life in a new place, mixed with the regret of loss and nostalgia endured through the process of migration, that I have chosen to situate my practice and through which I work to represented feelings of floating freedom, but also of fear and insecurity.
My sculptures and paintings are little familiar objects that weave stories. These small objects act as bearers of hope and bridges making the link between cultures. An empty chair symbolises what we left behind and keeps us connected to our roots. A lonely boat is a bearer of hope. A floating bridge invites us to build connections and empathy towards the unknown. Will they eternally float ?

Houda Terjuman, 22 April 2019

My research project

In collaboration with Arts Cabinet, I undertook to present, reflect on and produce the research that informs my practice. To that end, I have created 3 distinctive sections which represent the stages that constitute the process of migration, from de-rootedness, loss, transition and fear, to emerging levels of hope and resilience which I describe as attaining an El-Dorado.

This page will present work that I have done in the past at the invitation of institutions and galleries, as well as work that is now privately owned, and also work in progress.

The final El-Dorado stage marks an outcome of my research with Arts Cabinet, and announces a new turn in my practice: that to test new forms of representing the resilience, hope and freedom that come from the acts of migrating.


In an attempt to trace cultural and family backgrounds, I will make a long journey back to the Middle East, Europe and Africa. 

The contemporary state of the world is that of cultural transience. It goes through severe uprooting and displacement and creates unintended reverberations on the individual. The man in exile becomes an uprooted tree, in and indeterminate floating state, on a painful path to regaining stability. 


The sculpture’s function is to become a place for finding life and identity, a negotiation process often in confrontation with alterity. 

The three dimensional measure of a sculpture confronts the reality of evolution, that of uprooting, the permanent search of home, the quest for resilience, and finally peace, peace with the world and with others. A process that involves individuals, communities and the world. 

The tree and the biological systems are a metaphor for a cultural condition of permanence that has been eradicated and has instead stretched into multiple directions, becoming multi-rooted, and resisting external pressures for anchoring in the depths of one place.


This is the moment when we reached to that long awaited peace. We forget the reasons that made us leave our homeland.  A sort of wisdom appears.

Here, the sculptures are still floating because balance is not completely mastered. 


In this series of works developed through my research with Arts Cabinet, (sculptures and oil on canvas), I speak of that inner child that thinks everything is possible. I use ‘we’ as I often speak for all those who like me have measured their lives out through different itinerancies as hybrid migrants.

The adult that has the courage of following that Eldorado takes the strength from his childhood, from that time when he thought, when we all thought that we could fly and everything seemed easier. 

During that journey that is life, we realise the hardness of this chosen path. These wings are no longer wings to fly.

We chose to heal our wounds with golden ink. The Eldorado becomes a re-emergence into a new life. 

The scars of life are true, and beauty cannot be harmed by time.