Funny, moving, eye-opening: inside gal-dem’s ‘home’ issue

Featuresby Grace Wang in November 2017

It’s been a couple of months since gal-dem released their second issue, but it’s taken me this long to get through the dense, 270+ pages of personal essays, photo series, interviews and reportage by women of colour. Following last year’s ‘gal-hood’ issue, this one explores the notion of ‘home’ — that personal space where some of our strongest, most life-shaping experiences take root.

Memories of childhood homes are evoked throughout, though in the opening letter, editor Liv Little points to a variety of meanings the word can have on different individuals — “Home may be the smell of pepper pot on your grandmother’s stove, it may be a safe space, it may be that home is or has been controlling, isolating, or something which you are yet to experience.”

Published by a collective of over 70 women and non-binary people of colour, these stories will move you, confront you, and make you laugh. But most of all, they will open your eyes to the wide range of honest human experiences that you won’t find elsewhere. Read on for four of our favourite features below…

1. Family chain mail as love

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“PLEASS [sic] URGENT !: Never eat an egg and banana at the same time because their mixture gives a poison that kills within 5 minutes.” Scam messages, lovingly passed through immigrant family group chats, often find their source to an aunty who is preparing a younger generation for the unfamiliar Western world. Despite the low likelihood of death by protein, Niellah Arboine and Mariel NO believe that this culture is a sign of paternal blessing.

2. Dear Philadelphia

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This series by photographer Renee Maria documents a sense of unity in North Philadelphia, a community that can often be defined by its high levels of gun crime, drug abuse and underachieving schools. She talks to gal-dem about her favourite photographs and what they mean to her — “When I first met these kids I knew they were talented, but the resources being invested in them were limited”.

3. Growing up in a Chinese takeaway

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Sophie Lau grew up in China Inn, the Chinese takeaway in Norfolk run by her parents where many of her first experiences of racism took place. But it was also a place of joy and warmth, where her friends could get “free Chinese” (though the anglicised version that was glazed with ignorance), where she could feel her parents’ love through their labour, where she called home for 21 years.

4. Homecoming

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The issue opened with a reflection on Grenfell Tower, followed by this photo series by Khadija Saye, an artist who passed away in the fire. The portraits track her journey to her ancestral home of Gambia, asking questions to do with identity in a postcolonial land.

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