Karen Mary Solomon


Bachelor of Design Editorial Publication Print Identity Narrative Storytelling Inter-cultural

The Enriquez-Solomon Family Archive

The title of the publication, Balikbayan originates from the words balik, meaning ‘to return’ and bayan meaning ‘country’. It is a personal archive of the Enriquez-Solomon family and their experiences as first-generation New Zealand immigrants. By researching concepts of Filipino diaspora, immigration and identity using themes of struggle, triumph, culture, and belonging, I hope to convey notions of both the harmonious and diasporic, along with admiration and respect for the hard work of my family.

Balikbayan features precious memorabilia such as old photographs, handwritten letters, and other ephemera supported by family anecdotes and archives. Due to the nature of oral interviews, transcription in this publication features both the 'spoken voice' in red to represent Tagalog and the 'translated voice' in black, representing English.

My 2020 capstone project was to produce an archival publication about the experiences of my family as first-generation New Zealand immigrants — following a diasporic narrative that highlights unique perspectives within the concepts of immigration, identity, and the phenomenon of Filipino diaspora. By conducting intimate interviews, I was able to present a comparison between individual thoughts and feelings which have been shaped by both a generational and cultural gap. Simultaneously, this body of work was a chance for me to learn integral aspects of the Philippines’ economic history, more specifically the Marcos-era, that led to my own family’s migration.

The word ‘balikbayan’ came to me as a lightbulb moment and is what catapulted the foundations of this project. It is a term that refers to Filipinos returning to their country after living in another country for a long period of time. It is also deeply reminiscent of the notion of Filipino diaspora and therefore situates the project with relevancy and meaning.

This project is also informed by two artists who explore the concept of migration and belonging, Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, a well-known Filipino husband-and-wife artist duo. In 2018, they exhibited an installation at Auckland Art Gallery that I had the opportunity to participate in called, “From Pillars to Post: Project Another Country”.

Their chosen material, recycled cardboard, is an allusion to what Filipinos call a ‘balikbayan box’ in which Isabel describes as, “… an ingenious invention of the Filipino diaspora to stay in touch with their families, relatives, friends, and motherland.”1 Their statement amplifies the notion of home, belonging, and how it contributes to a person’s change and growth in their social and cultural identity.

Isabel comments, "… if we go back home to the Philippines, our homeland, we feel that we’re not from there anymore, you feel like a foreigner…”1 Through applying their personal sentiments to my project, I am able to encompass one of the main factors that are present within the migration experience; the struggles of being in the in-between – giving profound meaning to Balikbayan.

Utilising the cultural significance of the box helped me determine precise design decisions, including the graphic symbol on the front cover and debossed slipcase, along with the use of red as representative of travel – the 'fragile' red tape found in those boxes. This palette is also applied throughout the publication, within the body text of the two different languages spoken by myself and my family – black for English and red for Tagalog. Additionally, there are pockets of information integrated into the book addressing culturally significant words to give context and enlighten the reader.

This project is dedicated not only to the Enriquez-Solomon family — but also to fellow Filipinos who have followed a similar path as ours, along with other immigrants that hope to one day share their own stories of a better tomorrow, full of the same determination and love for the family.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. (2018, June 11). From Pillars to Posts: Project Another Country [Video]. YouTube.