Ellie Evelyn Orrell

Ellie Evelyn Orrell on the Images of Mohamed Hassan

In the latest article collaboration between Wales Arts Review and The Western Mail, Ellie Evelyn Orrell reflects on the call of home in the works of Welsh-Egyptian photographer, Mohamed Hassan, mapping Hasan’s depictions of Wales against her own experience of belonging and home.

Along a winding road, bordered by sloping fields and crooked stock fences at either side, I’m suddenly home. I’d been scrolling through a sleepless night in London when I first encountered the work of Welsh-Egyptian artist, Mohamed Hassan. I saved it, taking a screenshot in the way I might once have carefully torn a photo from a magazine and folded it away into a notebook for later reference. Like a seashell holding onto the sound of waves, it became an amulet of home that could fit into the space of my coat pocket, carrying something of Wales to wherever I was.

The whistles of red kites circling the sky above are brought closer, my mind allowed to settle briefly in the dips and pools of hills as I follow the curve of roads preserved in light. It’s a very describable feeling in Welsh: hiraeth. An acute kind of homesickness knitted with nostalgia, an all-encompassing sense of longing to perform the return journey.

It arrived as the simple enjoyment of things that reminded me of home whenever they crossed my pathfilms whose leading roles were played by green hills or slate-roofed towns; a spill of painted waterlilies that delivered me to the Davies sisters’ pond at Gregynog; an old copy of Wild Wales pocketed on my last visit for its cover and carried southward. My search for these moments of connection to Wales began unintentionally. It was only as I sat on a train from Marylebone bound for Newtown, that I began to realise these had in fact become remedies for homesickness and sources of comfort in unsettled times. They had been the most tangible connections I could make to this place whilst feeling its absence.

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Ellie Evelyn Orrell is a Welsh author, designer and artist who recently released her debut novel, An Indigo Summer.