Cultural migration – the new normal?

Cultural migration

The cultural sector thrives on a cross-pollination of people, their stories and the varied textures within them. By embracing and celebrating alternative visions, new ideas, and techniques, artistic expression develops via a process of tessellating influence and experimentation. Listening to the creative voices of other people enable us to expand and enrich our understanding of the human experience – an understanding that can reach beyond the confines of boundaries and borders.

Karine Polwart, a folk singer and songwriter from Scotland, is keen to acknowledge the way in which music itself has been shaped by travelling performers, by cultural migration and integration, and by the enthusiasm of musicians to develop their craft by learning from one another. Speaking with the Thistle and Shamrock about migration, Karine said: “life is movement, if you try to stop movement you are killing life.” You can listen to the full interview at NPR.

If individualism has been valorised too much in the modern age, a positive attitude towards migration can remedy the problem. Migration does much more even than develop art and culture. By listening to each other’s stories, alternative perspectives, and new values, this process of expanding and enriching our understanding of the human experience also enables us to develop greater empathy and become more open to innovative thinking.

Released in 2017, Polwart’s album A Pocket of Wind Resistance takes its title from the flying formation of migrating Geese. The skein formation – the V shape in which the birds fly – demonstrates that the birds possess an instinctive collectivism. Each goose takes a turn to lead the formation and bear the brunt of the resistance from the wind, while others take a turn to drop back into a shielded position. For Polwart, this neat image combines these themes of migration and empathy and demonstrates how social animals can create refuge for one another in the face of adversity.

We have seen how global problems do not acknowledge human borders and boundaries. The last two years have been dominated by a pandemic that has affected everyone across the world. We have also seen how the international community has been quick to share knowledge and solutions when necessary. With our climate rapidly changing we must expect many more global problems, we must embrace thinking and expertise from around the world and must be prepared to make refuge and sanctuary for those most effected by the consequences of our collective impact on the planet.

These themes inform our upcoming Culture and Sustainability online panel with Edinburgh International Festival Artists, taking place Tue 24 August.