Sole survivors: Art highlights domestic abuse

An exhibition in Cork entitled ‘Souls Of Our Shoes’ sends out messages from victims of domestic abuse says EMMA CONNOLLY
Sole survivors: Art highlights domestic abuse

A display from the shoe exhibition which will be on display in Carrigaline later this month

A PROVOCATIVE exhibition to raise awareness of domestic abuse is coming to St. Mary’s Church, Carrigaline later this month as part of a national tour.

Entitled Souls Of Our Shoes - A Journey Into And Out Of Domestic Abuse, it will run during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign, which takes place from November 25 to December 10.

The exhibition comprises physical shoes, accompanied by comments from those who have walked away from abuse, and from those who journey with them.

Some of the comments include: ‘I love these shoes but they hurt me now’; ‘these trainers were good friends to me. I could run quickly in them’; ‘It happens to Grandmothers too’; ‘These shoes may be glamorous but my life is not’; ‘I didn’t think I could walk away; These were the shoes that kicked me’.

The exhibition is an initiative of the women-led Christian movement Mothers’ Union Ireland. Hilary Dring is the Diocesan President of the Mothers’ Union in Cork and was a driving force in bringing the exhibition to Carrigaline.

An exhibit from the exhibition, ‘Souls of our Shoes - A Journey into and out of Domestic Abuse
An exhibit from the exhibition, ‘Souls of our Shoes - A Journey into and out of Domestic Abuse

“Ever since I first heard about and then saw the exhibition, I have felt that it is a very powerful and visual way to highlight the scourge of domestic abuse,” she said.

“I am quite passionate about the importance of speaking out about these issues which affect so many people/families in our societies.

“Indeed, I have at least one friend where I can see the lasting impact of violence and abuse in their home, both as a child and as an adult.

“Bringing the exhibition to Carrigaline, which is my home parish, is one way of doing something practical to raise awareness of the issues.

An exhibit from the exhibition, ‘Souls of our Shoes - A Journey into and out of Domestic Abuse
An exhibit from the exhibition, ‘Souls of our Shoes - A Journey into and out of Domestic Abuse

“Our rector, Rev Canon Elaine Murray, is keen to have this exhibition as a way of being part of the 16 Days Campaign. She is very supportive of the work we do and is herself a member of Mothers’ Union.”

Rev Canon Murray added: “As Christian communities, we are called to provide assistance to, seek safety and health for, and serve as an advocate for the victims of domestic abuse.

“If we ignore such abuse and politely act as if it does not exist, we perpetuate violence and leave the ‘least of these’ as vulnerable victims of violence and abuse.

“Thank you to the Mothers’ Union for organising such a powerful witness.”

The first All-Ireland Souls of Our Shoes Exhibition was mounted in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, for the duration of the World Meeting of Families in 2018.

It was a moving and meaningful experience, visited by thousands of visitors and pilgrims, many of whom echoed the fact that domestic abuse was endemic in their own country. Some took photos, asked questions, and were excited to be taking this idea back to their own country.

Hilary feels the exhibition will interest many people: “This is a topic which affects all of society - it is not restricted to any one group.

“The impact of the violence also affects us as a society, especially if there is a cloak of silence around it, which I feel has often been the case and still is.

“People’s lives are often so devastated by the trauma they experience that it is almost impossible for them to lead the life they could have otherwise.

“The one thing I would say is that it is not a topic that is suitable for younger children. It might be appropriate for older children and teenagers, if there is a willingness on the part of the adults in their lives to speak with them about the issues in an age appropriate way.”

Hilary said individuals and groups are welcome to drop in during this time to view the exhibition and stand in solidarity with all who experience domestic abuse.

The exhibition will be open at St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Church Road, Carrigaline, P43 F625, from noon to 2pm, from Friday, November 25 to Thursday, December 1. For more, see

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