The Unhomely: Explorations of diaspora, and cultural displacement

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Ditigal Flyer of the event- Text says: The Unhomely: Explorations of Diaspora, and cultural displacement, Museum of the Home, the background of the flyer is a black-and-white photo of a room with crumbling brick walls.

22 September, 7.30pm 

The Unhomely, also referred to as Uncanny has been described as a ‘contrast between the secure and homely interior and the fearful invasion of an alien presence’

Anthony Vidler (1992) The Architectural Uncanny – Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

A conversation between Culture& director Errol Francis, contemporary artist KV Duong, honourary psychotherapist Owen Hewitson and contemporary artist Charmaine Watkiss and Gaynor Tutani Creative Programming Officer at the Museum of the Home.

The talk was based around the ideas of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who wrote about the uncanny, what he called unheimlich in German (‘unhomely’, as it directly translates into English).

The unhomely is very often re-enacted in fairy tales and Freud’s main example is based on the short story by E T A Hoffman, The Sandman, (1816) – a strange and somewhat disturbing tale that was once also thought appropriate to read to children to lull them to sleep.

Home, unhomeliness and loss of home is a recurring theme in postcolonial culture This feeling of homelessness, of being caught between two clashing cultures, has also been called unhomeliness by the critical theorist Homi Bhabha.

The panel discussed how these ideas might be applied to the experience of migration and how it features in their work.

The live webinar took place in A front Room in 1970, an installation curated by artist Michael McMillan, that explores the migrant experience of African-Caribbean families setting up home in the UK in the mid-20th century. The webinar was moderated by Dr Errol Francis, Artistic Director of Culture& and live streamed.

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KV Duong

KV Duong (b.1980 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam) is a London-based artist with a practice that spans painting, sculpture, and performance. Duong grew up in Canada to Chinese Vietnamese parents displaced by the Vietnam War. In his work, he explores themes of migration and cultural assimilation, through a re-examination of his parents’ and his own experiences. War trauma and integration correlate with the artist coming out as a gay Asian man.

In this series Unhomely, Duong creates imagined landscapes using historic Vietnam War images juxtaposed with uncanny scenes of contemporary everyday life. Through the device of a ‘room’, time and space are delineated. The physical separation creates a sanctuary to work-through and work-over the past within a safe present-day haven.

Duong retells a history that has been distorted through media censorship and displaced through passed-on experiences, and in so doing suggests a new psychological reality. The material surface is corrupted—ripped, scratched, painted over—to disrupt any simple representation. The traumatised surface of the final work responds to conflict and the altered effects of the original events of war migration and suppression of speech. Perspective and scale are warped to create a tension between the object and subject relation.

Duong is a self-taught artist with a Masters in Structural Engineering. He is a recent recipient of funding from Arts Council of England, Jerwood Arts, and a-n. Duong presented his first institutional solo exhibition at the Migration Museum in spring 2022.  He is scheduled for an exhibition at Museum of the Home in spring 2023.


Errol Francis

Dr Errol Francis is Artistic director and CEO of Culture&. Errol studied photography and fine art at Central Saint Martin’s, University of the Arts London. His doctoral research at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London focused on postcolonial artistic responses to museums.

Errol’s background in mental health activism has influenced his arts practice such as his role as head of arts at the Mental Health Foundation and his directing of the Anxiety Arts Festival 2014, Cyborgs 2019 and his work in the curatorial research group PS/Y.

Errol is currently content producer for the Culture Box research project at the University of Exeter, which promotes social interaction and public health through the arts in the time of Covid-19 for people living with dementia in care homes. He is visiting lecturer at the University of Greenwich, Goldsmith’s University of London and Sotheby’s Institute of Art.


Charmaine Watkiss

Charmaine Watkiss was born in London to Jamaican parents. She completed her MA in Drawing at Wimbledon College of Art, 2018. Her work is concerned with what she calls ‘memory stories’. She creates narratives primarily through research connected to the African Caribbean diaspora, which is then mapped onto female figures. She draws herself only as a conduit to relay stories that speak about a collective experience; starting with a theme then allowing intuition and a dialogue with the work to take over. Her practice addresses themes including, ritual, tradition, ancestry, mythology and cosmology. Charmaine has recently shifted her gaze towards the natural world, investigating the herbal healing traditions of Caribbean women, especially those of her mother’s generation, and connecting those traditions through colonisation, back to their roots in Africa. Charmaine currently has a solo show at Leeds Art Gallery.

She lives and works in London and is represented by Tiwani Contemporary gallery.


Owen Hewitson

Dr Owen Hewitson holds a PhD in Psychoanalysis and practices psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Guild of Psychotherapists, and in private practice. He is the co-author of ‘Reading Lacan’s Écrits’ (2021), ‘Reading Lacan’s Seminar VIII’ (2020) and several other books and journal articles. He speaks in the UK and internationally about psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in theory and practice.


Gaynor Tutani

Gaynor Tutani (Art Adlib) is a curator, producer and writer who merges her various arts, culture, community and educational passions to produce exhibitions, events and commentaries on art and curating. Her speciality is in public programming – hosting music performances, talks, interviews and poetry programs, of which she extends as part of her practice as the Creative Programing Officer at the Museum of the Home. Working across the Creative Programmes and Collections team, as well as the Commercial and Campaigns division, her role centres on aligning the Museum’s programming within the core values and vision of engaging with the museum communities through fundraising and programming that interrogates critical societal issues through an artistic practice.

She is the Co-founder of EARTHworks [Artists], a curatorial duo that is dedicated to promoting creative collaborations through an intergenerational lens. Their work aims to raise awareness of the benefits of art and art making practices to health and well-being, alongside global issues such as climate change, equality and diversity.

Gaynor holds a BA in History and History of Ideas from Goldsmith’s university of London, is currently undertaking postgraduate studies in Museum Cultures and Curating at Birkbeck University of London, specialising in African art, difficult histories, and decolonial approaches.



Culture&, is a London-based independent arts and heritage charity established in 1987 whose mission is to open up the arts and heritage workforce, audiences and programmes through training, cross arts commissioning and audience development. Culture&’s flagship programme is the New Museum School which provides fully funded bursaries for diverse young talent to pursue MA and PGDip courses in Museum Studies and Socially Engaged Practice at the University of Leicester.

Culture&’s public programmes are aimed at expanding audiences and are delivered in collaboration with arts and heritage organisations such as the British Library and Wellcome Collection.

Our host partners are leading museums, galleries and arts and heritage organisations: Bethlem Museum of the Mind • Birmingham Museums • English Heritage • Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity • Historic Environment Scotland • London Metropolitan Archives • Manchester Museum (University of Manchester) • Museum of Design and Architecture (MoDA), Middlesex University • Norfolk Museums Service • Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford) • Foundling Museum • National Trust • Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums • University of Cambridge Museums • Wellcome Collection