A NEW exhibition opens at University College Cork today aiming to honour and remember all who suffered in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes, and industrial schools.
Stay with Me, which opens in the Aula Maxima, is a group art exhibition which brings together the work of 20 artists and survivors who felt compelled to create artwork in response initially, to the tragic story of the Tuam Babies.
The works include installations, paintings and sculptures, as well as printed poetry and jewellery.
The largest piece of artwork is by Bonnie Kavanagh and is a hanging installation consisting of 796 clay hearts, while Alison Lowry’s glass “Home Babies” dress consists of glass baptismal certs.
There are also four large baby blankets, which were knitted by 300 men and women around the world to create 800 squares for the corresponding number of Tuam Babies.
One of the artists is Sheila O’Byrne. In 1976, when Sheila was 19, she was sent to St Patrick’s Mother and Baby Home on Dublin’s Navan Road. She was reunited with her son only last year.
“While this issue has received extensive media coverage, the emotional impact of this recent history is hard to communicate,” Dr Rachel MagShamhráin of UCC’s School of Languages Research Cluster on Gender and Violence, said. “It is here that artistic responses have a function, and this is the exhibition’s mission.”
Research by Galway historian, Catherine Corless on the Tuam Mother and Babies home, led to the establishment of the mother and baby homes commission of investigation. In 2017 it reported its excavation in Tuam had found “significant quantities of human remains” in a 20-chamber underground structure.
That Commission’s fifth interim report, published in April this year, revealed that thousands of children died in mother and baby homes, and few received proper burials.
The exhibition will run from August 19 to 23.