Finding a Home in Maindee – Jhons and Francy

Empanadas, a Monkey-face orchid and our exotic childhoods were just three of the many topics I got to talk about with Jhons and his wife, Francy on my second visit to their home in Maindee. This is a personal project, a documentary photographic project funded through the Maindee New Paths initiative. It’s a journey I’m on to find out why some people have chosen to make their home there.

“This house gave us a solution, it was our safe haven. Maindee has given us back our health and happiness”

Jhons and Francy chose a home in Maindee some 10 years ago, for a very different reason to why they choose to live there now. What started out as a house move for life-changing health reasons, now shows a home that reflects new life and their strong connections among the colourful communities that they are part of. From local festival collaborating to running the South Wales Hispano Latino community, along with all their other artistic and community-supporting endeavours in between. 

I was joining them for my first taste of Francy’s homemade empanadas and guacamole – we’d previously talked about their street’s multi-culturalness by the many enticing culinary scents coming from the neighbours houses. Tempting the passerby as they walked the street around mealtimes, to at least guess the country’s cuisine as they walked through.  But I’d struck gold, I was invited in for lunch, I was in heaven!

It was fascinating to listen to Jhons talk about his childhood in Columbia. Explaining that as children, they would head up into the mountains for two days at a time, building dens, fires, learning to fish. His parents didn’t exactly know where he was but that it was ok, like a right of passage, a chance to learn and explore. 

This made me think about my own childhood spent overseas and my freedom there, my own right of passage. We talked about how very different it is today for children, growing up in this community outside their front door.

“I smile as I think of my childhood. There are so many rules around children now, it’s so important that they get the chance to be children – they don’t have the chance to explore. I’m thankful and grateful for my upbringing”

We also talked a lot about trust. This journey has not only been about me gaining people’s trust, but about the people I meet gaining my trust too. I’m finding I’m sharing as much of my own life’s story, opinions and aspirations as those I connect with, a balanced exchange of information, essentially between strangers at first. I’m getting myself invited into different homes and we end up sharing, at times, some pretty intimate stories.  I’m also getting the chance to look at my own memories of living in Maindee, even further back into my own childhood. Things I’d forgotten about.  The comparisons of our lives at times during these conversations, can be strikingly similar and uncannily connected in ways that I could never of predicted. 

As artists and general human beings, we’re forever looking at our process of how and why we do what we do. For me it’s a reflection back to how I connected with the last people or objects I photographed. Each time it’s different and I take a little piece of that connection into the next one and hope that it works as magically as it can. Mainly I know from experience, that it’s about trusting them first, by offering an honest tale or two about me. But with Jhons and Francy, they held their door wide open from the start, and the exchange of honest, heartfelt and inspiring tales began almost immediately. 

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