The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
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MER 12 – Migrant Mothers by Eti Wade

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Eti Wade on the cover image from her series, MIGRANT MOTHERS

 –  ‘Migrant Mothers’ is a series of photographs of mothers with their children. The title is a homage to Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph ‘Migrant Mother’ which recorded a young mother, aged before her time, holding three young children close to her body, her face showing the hardship she suffers through caring for her children while struggling with extreme poverty.

My mothers are migrants, they are economic migrants who have left their home countries to work in rich, Western economies. To be able to gain entry and work long hours the mothers have to leave their children behind to be cared for by grandparents or other family members. They often leave their children at a very young age, sometimes even a few months old. Thanks to Skype and other internet communication channels they get to see them (visually) regularly. What they do not get to do as mothers is be with their children, physically. They cannot hug, comfort, change nappies, clean, kiss, kiss better or simply share a physical space for months and sometimes for years.

My Migrant Mothers are photographed together with their children. Both mother and child are present at the sitting, only one (mother) is in London, UK, sharing a physical space with me in her apartment and the other (child) is in the Philippines, sitting in front of their computer as they do regularly to be with their mother. My mothers are holding their children as best they can, enclosed as an image on the laptop monitor. It is a mother and child portrait, shaped by the economic realities of the gap between East and West.


Eti Wade is an artist and academic. Her art practice is a personal investigation of the limits of maternal subjectivity expressed through photography and video and she also writes on the subject of the maternal gaze in contemporary photographic art. Eti is a lecturer teaching at the University of West London, she is the mother of three boys aged 20, 13 and 4 and lives in London, England.

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