Flower power to mark Cork Traveller Pride

Events at Crawford Art Gallery in the coming days will be a celebration of the Traveller community, reveals MARY HASSETT
Flower power to mark Cork Traveller Pride
Traditional paper flowers were delivered to the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, by a group from Cork Traveller Women's Network and Traveller Visibility Group in preparation for the "Pavee Beoirs in Awsha" installation and the Looped Film Screenings which will take place in the gallery from June 10 to 13, during Cork Traveller Pride. Among those present were (from left) Louise Harrington, Biddy McDonagh, Catherine Coffey O'Brien, who is a flower maker; Sueellen McCarthy and Mags O'Sullivan pictured with Anne Boddaert and Emma Klemencic both of the Crawford Art Gallery. Picture Denis Minihane.

IT was a labour of love for Cork Traveller women, to make upwards of 600 paper flowers, which are being used to adorn the Crawford Art Gallery during the Cork Traveller Pride Festival.

In former times, Traveller women would make paper flowers to sell in the various towns around the country. Over the past few weeks, Traveller women’s groups from Togher, Mahon, and Spring Lane were invited to make their own versions of the paper flowers.

Starting at the front door of the Crawford Gallery, the flowers will form a trail directing Travellers and all comers up the stairs to the rooms where film screenings and workshops are being held.

The Crawford Gallery installation of this traditional Traveller art of making paper flowers is entitled ‘Pavee Beoirs In Awsha’ in Cant, which is the language of Irish Travellers. This translates as ‘Traveller Women Coming’.

The paper flowers will be on display in the Gallery from Monday, June 10 to Wednesday, June 13 from 10am to 4.45pm.

“The flower trail is being used to show Travellers that the Crawford Gallery is a welcoming place for them. We want to encourage Travellers to come here”, says Bridget Carmody, co-ordinator of Cork Traveller Women’s Network (CTWN).

“I have fought all my life to ensure that my children could stand up in school and say that they are Travellers.

Catherine Coffey O'Brien, a flower maker from Blarney, pictured in the Crawford Art Gallery. Picture Denis Minihane.
Catherine Coffey O'Brien, a flower maker from Blarney, pictured in the Crawford Art Gallery. Picture Denis Minihane.

“I want our children and young people to be able to say that they are part of Cork.

“It is very important for us as Travellers to feel we’re part of the community. I have had to sit at meetings where people talked about Travellers as if they were dirt — they’re my people”, Bridget points out.

Mags O’Sullivan, Outreach Development Worker, CTWN, has been working closely with Crawford Art Gallery Curator, Anne Boddaert, in putting together the exhibits and workshops.

“It is hugely significant to have community- generated art on display in the Crawford Gallery and also to have it displayed with the same care as is used in displaying the work of famous artists,” says Louise Harrington, Outreach Development Worker, CTWN.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the journey, history, culture and real lived experience of Irish Travellers is invited to a workshop in the Gallery, provided by Mags O’Sullivan, who is also a Traveller Cultural Awareness Trainer.

This Talking with Travellers Workshop takes place on Tuesday, June 11 from 12.30pm to 2pm.

In addition to making the paper flowers, the Meela Traveller Women’s Group based in Mahon have been busy stitching small handmade purses known as Beady Pockets.

In the old days, when Traveller women met their friends at a wedding or a horse fair, they would exchange a special button or bead which would then be sewn onto the purse.

A film based on a poem by Rosaleen McDonagh, featuring the Mahon Traveller women stitching the Beady Pockets, will be shown on a loop screening in the Crawford Gallery from June I0 to June 13.

The screening will also feature a Traveller oral history film made by a group of older Traveller women in conjunction with the UCC Folklore Department.

“The core of our work in the Cork Traveller Women’s Network is to support Traveller women as leaders and to make changes in issues affecting their lives,” says Louise Harrington.

The Triskel Arts Centre has been home to the Cork Traveller Women’s Network since late 2017, when they first formed a partnership.

“We have a great working relationship with the director of the Triskel, Tony Sheehan, and we also have a great relationship with the Cork Public Museum”, says Bridget Carmody.

“We are using the artistic hub that we have here in the Triskel to showcase all that is positive about Traveller culture.

Louise adds: “In the Cork Public Museum we have the only Traveller culture exhibit in a public museum that’s permanent and run by Travellers.

Among the events hosted by the Museum during Cork Traveller Pride 2019, will be a guided tour of this unique ‘Travelling the Road’ exhibit on Wednesday, June 12 and Thursday, June 13 from 11.30am to 12.30pm.

The acclaimed traditional singer, Thomas McCarthy will be in concert at the Triskel Arts Centre on Friday, June 7, supported by Mary Frances Keenan and Helen Connors.

A Conference promoting hope and change for Traveller men in Ireland will take place in the Triskel Arts Centre on Monday, June 10. The Traveller Visibility Group, based at 25 Lower John Street, will also launch their Traveller men’s health strategic plan at the Conference. “Traveller Pride is about reaching out the hand of friendship, inviting people to come and learn about Traveller culture,” says Louise Harrington.

The aim of Cork Traveller Pride 2019 is to celebrate Travellers as citizens of Cork, highlighting the many positive contributions they make to the city.

This year’s celebration of Traveller culture and ethnicity is organised jointly by the Cork Traveller Women’s Network and the Traveller Visibility Group Ltd.

In addition to the Crawford Gallery, the Triskel Arts Centre and the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald’s Park are hosting a whole series of free events during Cork Traveller Pride.

The Traveller Pride flag, designed in collaboration with the Glucksman Gallery, will fly over City Hall for the duration of the Festival.

For more information on Cork Traveller Pride events see:

Cork Traveller Women’s Network Facebook

Cork Traveller Visibility Group Ltd. Facebook.

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