Image credit: Family photo courtesy of the artist.

mi gudú, by Marla Celeste


“I’ve always had a difficult relationship with Australia and with my family. These tenuous connections are central to my reasons for having spent most of my adult life living overseas. Most recently, I spent just over four years living in South America before abruptly evacuating from my home in Lima, Peru to Australia in the midst of the pandemic.

Landing and quarantining in Brisbane before slowly making my way down the East Coast saw me change addresses four times in the space of a month or two, before I finally arrived in my hometown with almost nothing to my name or in my hastily packed suitcase. The place that had always felt suffocating to me growing up, and one I swore I’d never return to, was one that I found it quite difficult to draw inspiration from for this piece.

My definition of “home” has always been less grounded in physical places or even people so much as through more abstract signifiers; plant species, birdsong, flavours of comfort foods and familiar slang.

Since returning, thinking to myself in Spanish has provided me with an escape – a lens through which to process all that has been happening to us societally and to myself personally, as well as to grapple with the immense privilege I hold as an Australian.

It gave me a voice in which I could find the words to express what I felt in response to the prompt of ‘reimagining home‘, and ultimately, inhabited the form of a letter to my partner who was still desperately fighting Covid-19 as I left to catch my repatriation flight. As a Peruvian citizen, he was unable to come with me.

My experiences of the last four years abroad and recent months here have been incredibly complex and emotionally overpowering. I feel extremely appreciative to have been given the opportunity to have a central focus in life, both in terms of creative work and personal healing. Seeing so much uncertainty and disproportionate suffering in the world had led me to seriously question the role of art in society and my personal creative career during such bleak times. It allowed to me process things that were otherwise far too overwhelming for me to even acknowledge. I want to express my deep gratitude to the team at Multicultural Arts Victoria for organising Shelter and for their unwavering support throughout its elaboration.”

mi gudú, by Marla Celeste is created for Shelter 2020.