Moving, breathing, transforming: migration and new life experiences

Three Butterflies by Herman Henstenburgh, c.1683 – c.1726, Rijksmuseum, public domain

‘The universe is transformation, life is opinion.’
Marcus Aurelius, Book IV, Meditations, c. 121–180 AD

Migration has a transformative effect on identity, whether consciously or otherwise. Through learning a new language or a new skill, being exposed to something different or by consciously choosing to reinvent yourself, change lies at the heart of migration.

This was certainly the case for Eriton Santos in his submission to the Migration Collection entitled ‘Learning to play the piano’. Eriton recounts his story of migration from Brazil to Ireland which was marked by his piano lessons. Moving to learn English in 2014, the changed environment meant that learning piano, something that was an expensive past-time in the small town he left in Rio de Janeiro, was now within his means.

Music is now a part of Eriton’s life, from his leisure time to his work as a carer, with musicality becoming an important part of his new identity in Ireland.  

‘Learning music like this is like a new language, a new world opens for you,’ says Eriton, ‘I came to Ireland to learn one language, but ended up learning two.’

‘Where words fail, music speaks.’ ― Hans Christian Andersen

Learning to play the piano | Eriton Santos, Europeana Migration Collection, CC BY-SA
Girl at the Piano | Maris, Jacob, 1879, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Russell too would see his life path forever transformed when he and his family migrated to Germany in his childhood. His story ‘Dinosaurs in Deutschland shows the effect of his exposure to a German dinosaur magazine, which would spark within Russell a desire to take his passion seriously.

‘I’ve always been obsessed with dinosaurs but this magazine was the beginning of me taking it seriously, says Russel, ‘From that time onwards, dinosaurs became an even bigger part of my life. I decided at that age to dedicate my career to them.’

Inspirational dinosaurs

Dinosaurs in Deutschland | Russell, Europeana Migration Collection, CC BY-SA
To dinosaurer som sloss | Severin Worm-Petersen, 1857 — 1933, Norsk Teknisk Museum, CC BY

At times, however, a transformation is planned, with migration affording a space for reinvention. Diego Menhanha’s ‘Reinvent yourself’ follows his journey to Dublin, Ireland. Leaving his car, apartment and steady career as a marketing professional in Brasil, Diego moved to the completely foreign, Ireland. Navigating a new country with a new language came with challenges; from an ill-fated role as a kitchen porter and endless job interviews, Diego now relishes his new life, proficient in English and a successful master’s student; a modern-day inventor of his own life.

‘I arrived in Dublin without any knowledge of English and also anybody to support me,’ says Diego, ‘We can think out of the box and start again; don’t be afraid and follow your dreams.’

States of invention

Reinvent yourself | Diego Mendanha, Europeana Migration Collection, CC BY-SA
Nikola Tesla, with his equipment for producing high-frequency alternating currents | Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Migration gives space for new experiences and an opportunity for change. This theme has weaved its way through the Migration Collection and the many of the works showcased on Europeana Collections.

Read all the stories collected at the Europeana Migration Collection days. Or if you have your own story of migration, share it with us here.

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