A GROUP of teenagers from Direct Provision centres across Cork will showcase their talent and creativity by unveiling a mural at Fitzgerald’s Park this Friday.
They have been working on the exciting project over the past few weeks in conjunction with The Glucksman at UCC.
The moveable mural ‘Arriving into View’, will be unveiled to the public at Fitzgerald’s Park on Culture Night, this Friday, September 22, and will remain on display for two months. A small companion exhibition of other art work by the teens will also run at the Glucksman Museum.
Last year’s project Navigating the Urban Landscape saw some 7,000 visitors over ten days come through the Gluckman’s doors to view the work.
Between 18 to 20 teenagers, aged from 12 to 17 years old are the participating artists and are residents of the Kinsale Road Ashbourne House, Glounthaune, Drishane Castle, Millstreet and Clonakilty Lodge.
Using a wide variety of techniques and mediums including working with birchwood and plywood, learning stencilling, spray painting and printmaking, the group have been working in collaboration with artists Claire Coughlan and Helen O’Keeffe and invited artists The Project Twins and Fiona Kelly.
Direct provision centres were set up by the government in 1999 in what was said to be a ‘temporary measure’ to tackle the influx of asylum seekers traveling to Ireland. Eighteen years later there is little evidence to suggest an alternative to this flawed system.
The most recent figures by the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) indicate that there are currently 662 people living in direct provision in Cork, of whom 164 are under 18. Some of these children (up to ages 8-9 years) were born here in Ireland and have spent their entire childhood living in Direct Provision.
A research paper entitled Institutionalised Infantilisation and State Subjugation authored by Mike Fitzgibbon (Food Business and Development, UCC) and Dr Jacqueline O’Riordan (Applied Social Studies, UCC) in 2013 indicates that Direct Provision as a system “…fails to recognise people’s most basic social, cultural, gender, ethnic, and religious needs;
it enforces penal conditions on people over long periods of time, and couples with this a continual boredom; it systematically isolates those seeking asylum, and enforces institutionalisation and powerlessness. It represents a state-imposed system of marginalisation and subjugation, and negatively impacts on people’s roles as parents with significant consequences for their children.”
The title of the project ‘Arriving into View’ is inspired by the teenagers’ living situations. Often these centres are kept hidden from public view on the periphery of society.
Curator of Education at the Glucksman, Tadhg Crowley explains that through art-making the aim of the project is to address the hidden nature of their day-to- day lives.
“We wanted the teenagers to have to opportunity to really come into the public’s view to showcase the talent and creativity we witnessed with last year’s project and to show that to a larger audience. ‘Arriving into View’ was borne out of that idea.”
A sense of freedom and autonomy is without doubt universally important to all teenagers but it is reportedly a distinct lack of freedom that is one of the biggest challenges facing teenagers living in Direct Provision says Tadhg.
“They don’t feel any sense of freedom living in the centres because they are confined to set meal times and there is a lack of financial freedom even for something as simple as taking public transport to get out of the centre for a while.
“Our aim is to get the teenagers out of the centres and into a creative space which is hugely important. We are a civic space and we want these teenagers to have a sense of ownership in their community.
“We left the ideas for the mural quite open so that they could really express themselves and identity is certainly an emerging theme. A project like this gives them the ability to lead the centre and feel like they are a part of their society.”
The value of space was central to the feedback Tadhg received from many of the participants.
“I asked one of the girls what she enjoyed most about taking part. One of the things she found amazing was the sense of space, coming into a different space and feeling freer. She described it as feeling like she ‘could breathe’.”
Tadhg has worked closely on community projects with his UCC colleagues over the years and believes that trust between the centres and UCC is vital to successfully bring projects like these to fruition.
“The only way we are able to work with different communities is because of the level of trust built up over the years by Mike Fitzgibbon and Jacqui O’Riordan. This allows us to invite the teenagers from the centres because they can trust that our intentions are good.”
Tadhg hopes that by viewing the mural, the public will have a greater awareness around young people living in Direct Provision centres.
“I hope that the public will become aware that this system still exists and understand that these teenagers have stories to tell and maybe the only way to get their voice heard is through art-making.
“They have lived here for a very long time without any kind of recognition. These young people are incredibly talented and have a lot to offer. We should be nurturing them and giving them the opportunities that they really deserve.”
Arriving into View takes place from 6-8pm on Culture Night, Friday September 22 at Fitzgerald’s Park.
Youths from Cork’s Direct Provision Centres will unveil a mural on Culture Night, this Friday, at Fitzgerald’s Park. JENNY REGAN finds out about the art project run by the Glucksman Gallery.