Housemaids and their parallel worlds

  • Apples for Sale © Rebecca Sampson
  • Together Apart © Maren Wickwire
  • Apples for Sale 2 © Rebecca Sampson
  • Together apart 2 © Maren Wickwire

The Project

An Exhibition and a film

Housemaids and their parallel worlds is a contemplation about the life of migrants from Asia who work and live as housemaids abroad. How can they achieve their desire to lead meaningful and self-determined lives while confined by their work environments? How can they adjust to a new beginning in their home country after a forced departure?

The Goethe-Institut Cyprus presented the the exhibition Apples for Sale by the German photograph Rebecca Sampson and the documentary film Together Apart by the anthropologist and filmmaker Maren Wickwire as a joint art project.

Apples for Sale is about Indonesian maids living and working in Hong Kong under precarious circumstances as second-class migrants in a parallel female subculture. Its focus lies on the contrast between the uniform everyday constraints they experience in the households of their employers and the young women’s desire to lead a meaningful existence and explore their own individuality. In an exclusively female environment they enter a role game. Male roles are embraced by tomboys - women who assume masculine dress and manner. Dolls, affectionately dressed and cared for, take the place of children. Since the maids are able to move about freely in Hong Kong only one day a week, they increasingly turn to Facebook as their social and cultural arena, a sphere where their individuality and personal freedom appears to know no bounds.

The extensive research for the project “Apples for Sale” was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin and within the context of the program Grenzgänger China – Deutschland
Together Apart is an intimate family portrait of two Igorot women from the Cordilleras, who left the Philippines to seek work abroad. As the most eastern outpost of the European Union, Cyprus has one of the lowest wages for migrant domestic helpers but still recruits large numbers of workers. Guil Ann, a twenty-five-year-old woman follows her own mother Carren to the other side of the world. Only months after mother and daughter reunite in Cyprus, unexpected events lead to Carren’s forced departure. After almost two decades abroad, Carren has to adjust to a new live in the Philippines, moving in with her mother and youngest son while Guil Ann realizes, that everyone is relying now on her income. Shifting between the temporary present and future imagination of serial migrants, the film is contemplating notions of self-hood, belonging and transnational motherhood, sharing insights into the complex web of global care chains beyond stereotypical narrative of victimization and sacrifice.

Produced by Manifest Media
Directed and Written by Maren Wickwire
Editing by Iara Rodriguez Vilardebó
Cinematography by Maren Wickwire
Sound Mix by Christos Kyriacoullis​

Portraits of the artists