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Imagine that...

Extract for a commission which I made in summer 2016.

Extract for a commission which I made in summer 2016.

http://eamonnmallie.com/2017/01/grace-by-eamonn-mallie/

Eamonn Mallie starts his piece by “imagining”. As an artist, I do that too, “imagine”. What would things in the Northern Ireland current political landscape look like if they were different? What if alternative words and actions were used to bring another narrative? If we could stop the frame, as if in Forum Theatre, experiment with a different “take”, and another, and another (take 3…) until we found the “take” that feels just right. The one that holds dignity and grace beside courage and strength, that takes responsibility for the wrongs that we’ve all done. It envisages a farther shore beyond a predictable past that we should have learnt from rather than repeat in a different format.

What if the intention of the narrative was to go easy on ourselves and each other, because sure, have we not gone through enough? I feel as ashamed now as I did growing up with a backdrop of violence yet I still believe, believe in the farther shore.

Eammon quotes The Cure of Troy, by Seamus Heaney which I’ve been thinking about for a long time, since 1998 to be exact, when I was allowed to use these words following the Omagh bomb, in days when we realised that that kind of pain was no longer acceptable.

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells.

The lines from the poem float in my head, continuing to create images and even more so, over these past few days as I’ve listened to voices in authority from all sides, hurling insults and blame like frenzied fistfuls of messy mud. One thing I learnt from working alongside those who have been hurt in the past, is that the deep, dark root of that level of pain, began at some point with harsh words. It doesn't have to be that way. There is a far side to revenge beyond the troughs of murk.

I feared that this beautiful verse had become a cliche until Mr Mallie used it in his piece. Then it dawned on me, that if that was the case, its familiarity would influence our actions and integrate our behaviour, enacting them as another “take”, even just to see what they felt like. This is the script. Imagine if these words set the scene or the agenda for today and tomorrows final talks to try to resolve the complex issues on the table? What if this kind of reconciliation was acted out in the chamber and applied to intentional grit to find resolution instead of another election? I may be a dreamer but let me imagine that…

http://eamonnmallie.com/2017/01/grace-by-eamonn-mallie/

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Conversational Retreats: Wisdom Pool No 2

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Conversational Retreats: Wisdom Pool No 2

At the end of October, there was a second gathering of the “Wisdom Pool”, which has been brought together by John Paul Lederach and Humanity United. We met in San Francisco last year and this year’s gathering took place in Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, where Roshi Joan Halifax hosted us for a few days. Peacebuilders from six continents and one island met to explore key questions in the light of our theory and practice.

We continued along the threads of discussion which began last year: loosely, how as peacebuilders, we can be more effective in the field? There was also the intention of narrowing the themes towards some kind next steps. This was another extremely rich, vibrant and inspiring time of conversation, paper making and walking.

I had the pleasure of leading the group in a paper making workshop, where we played in basins of paper pulp, water, flowers and petals, trying to sensitively yet firmly, make order out of chaos. In fact, we each made beauty from chaos and later considered how the process might have something to tell us in the wider context of building peace.

We also took a trip to the Tsankawi section of Bandelier National Monument, where we took a walk along the mesa, viewing cavates, petroglyphs and the Ancestral Pueblo village of Tsankawi. The trail finished up by overlooking Los Almamos, which is a very different place to the outstanding natural beauty of the walk before.

Conversations continue from this experience and gathering, as the words overflow in our hearts and thoughts. I am grateful for this experience and being included in this collection of people whose practice has much to inform the field.

Peacebuilders sensitively navigating the terrain.

Peacebuilders sensitively navigating the terrain.

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"Advent Life-Light" is launched!

A series of reflections on the story of Advent in visual art, words, audio, silence and moving image. Found in a calendar and online collection. I have created this and would like to share it with others who might be interested in the Christmas story.

I'm excited about this self-published venture and curious to see what happens with it.

To purchase or order your copy/ies, go to the Advent Life-Light of this website. 

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Carryduff Playcare Centre

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Carryduff Playcare Centre

I coordinate the Landmarks Project for Community Arts Partnership (CAP). I was also the facilitating artist who worked at Carryduff Playcare Centre where we made collages based on Superheros in the group.

Further information (including a short film) about our work can be found on:

http://comartspartner.org/news/community-arts-partnership-landmarks-project-carryduff-playcare-group-january-update/

Further information about the full Landmarks Project for 2015-2016 can also be found on:

http://comartspartner.org/?submit=search&s=landmarks

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All Names Known

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All Names Known

During the autumn and winter of 2015/16, another opportunity came up in my capacity of project co-ordinator and facilitating artist for Community Arts Partnership (CAP). This one was at the request of Belfast City Council and was a creative public consultation for a Public Art/Memorial in Belfast City Cemetery. The focus was the Baby Public Plot, Z1. I knew from first hearing that it would be a highly sensitive piece of work but that made it all the more attractive.

The remains of 7893 bodies, mostly babies, were buried within a plot in the City Cemetery, which is now known as the Baby Public Plot, mainly during the period between 1945-1996. The stories for each vary as much as their names and it is undeniable that all names have been known by at least their mothers.

The facts around these circumstances are difficult to comprehend and make this a truly harsh story which took place relatively recently. The little ones would have been stillborn or died having survived for a short period. Between 70-20 years ago, it was usual practice for hospitals and social services to “take responsibility” for their burials. Testimonies make it clear that mothers, parents, families did not get the opportunity to hold the little ones or their loss as their babies were literally taken from the mothers when they were born, sick or expected to die a short time later. The infants were never seen again despite anguished requests. The mothers were told to go home, “get over it” and “forget about their baby” which of course, is impossible. Families weren’t informed about the graves or had the change to contribute towards or attend the burials. It was usual that they didn’t know where, when or if the babies had been buried.

Reasons for the adults being buried in the plot would have been quite different to the babies but they could already be forgotten and that their lives have so far, gone unmarked.

The Council has records for all who are buried within this plot, which are hand written in journals and kept in a safe. No individual owns specific graves and therefore there are no visible exclusive headstones or memorials to serve as a touchstone.

Over the last few months, I have organised, delivered and overseen the creative public consultation for CAP, which so far has proven to be a precious and fascinating experience. We have gathered words, flowers, made paper and by using the Expressive Arts, we have found individual and collective voice about a situation which was often covered up. 

The consultation report has been given to Belfast City Council and we await the next steps but further details about the project are seen on the link on the CAP website:

http://comartspartner.org/?submit=search&s=all+names+known

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Keepsake Narratives by Travellers...A book I created from the voices of Travelling women

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Keepsake Narratives by Travellers...A book I created from the voices of Travelling women

"Keepsake narratives by Travellers"...book of stories which I collated. 

Not wanting to settle for the norm, the anticipated questions or rehearsed answers in the workshops with this group of Travellers, I used the Expressive Arts to set a scene for narration to evolve. 

We painted, moved, used various forms of interpretation and had some fun. From this, common threads of themes emerged, prompting inquiry and discovery. “Listening” is important in storytelling.

Echoing the importance of the theme around “keepsakes”, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the parting words spoken or final messages are in actual fact, some of the most precious and these arrived towards the end of the workshops.

Also, the plan was always for us to launch the book as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival. I was also struck by the parallel of similar themes which were reflected in some of the programmed events and how close they were to my conversations with the Travelling community. Due to the Corners project at Festival, I was prompted to ask questions related to travelling, movement and observing travellers and this linked to some fascinating stories and comments from the ladies, allowing a weaving of inspiration.

Travelling is so important. It is necessary for all of us and it is good for us to do it as much as we can. The alternative is stagnation which becomes unhealthy, dull and indeed, poisonous.

I am grateful for having had time to work with the ladies from the Travelling community and through An Monia Tober. I am also grateful to Israel Hontavilla and Belfast City Council for supporting this work. Without your support, these stories would not have been gathered and this book would not be launched but most importantly, the voices of this group of Travellers would not be heard. As an artist, I am grateful for having the opportunity to show how an alternative approach has enabled us to unlock and delve into the richness of expression and creativity.

Please read and invite others to share our book and the link on the site. The messages in these keepsakes are being given away to be shared generously.

The book can be downloaded from this link:

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/community/goodrelations/travellercommunity.aspx

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The Art & Soul of Compassion

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The Art & Soul of Compassion

Here is a follow up to Petals of Hope & Remembering: "Petals of Hope”: Artwork, made in response to the bomb in Omagh in 1998 and follow up fifteen years later, in 2013.

Two years ago, I was invited by John Paul Lederach and Scott Appleby to meet with a group of people for some significant conversations, based on the themes around the nexus of compassion, spirituality and creativity in trauma and peacebuilding. We felt that the conversations and case studies between this collective of artists, poets, musicians, writers, contemplatives and neuroscientists might interest others, so we gathered and made them into a format, so that we could share them. This work was made possible by the support of the Fetzer Institute http://fetzer.org

I’d like to invite you to visit our website to listen and watch the stories which explain how our practice addresses these themes. Both phases of the "Petals of Hope" experience are included.

Link to site: 

https://theartandsoulofcompassion.squarespace.com

Please feel free to forward this link to others who might be interested in the stories. 

 

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Switzerland, 2015

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Switzerland, 2015

Don’t try to work it out.

There are layers that are seen 

and many more which are unseen.

Layers beside each other, 

under, on top of.

Narratives which hold the past

and unaware of the future. 

 

Stay on the surface

as the new shades emerge,

the new way becomes clear.

Spicy colours beside coolness.

There’s room on the canvas 

for all to exist and 

borrow their own place,

for the canvas keeps changing.

 

Trust the process.

Watch as it takes it’s place.

Hold your corner as if it were a tent peg.

Stretch the space.

Hold it open.

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Switzerland, 2015

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Switzerland, 2015

I am the reeds in the river,

the blades of running depth.

Grass tips like swords

stretching beyond sight

into the air of clean blue

without end, before reflection

with roots unseen.

 

I am the reeds who sway

as breezes blow through lengths.

Water swirls, leaps, 

spirals cooling in ebbs and lifts.

I am the repeated patterns 

of different water,

lifting and lowering.

 

Steady, yet moving, 

resilient despite

movement around me.

Calm.

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Welcome...

I expect to feed images or thoughts on to this space about current themes that I'm developing but don't expect that the finished works will be presented for a while. They are likely to be kept "under wraps" until I am content that they have reached a stage to be exposed (all part of the creative process!). This news feed might tempt you to find out more as the work progresses, which is great and if you are genuinely interested, please ask me more...

Current projects include a few different threads of themes...  I originally trained as a weaver and my Degree is in Constructed Textiles, so now I'm looking at the comparisons, patterns, similarities, etc between building textiles and building peace. For example, what does the term, "the fabric of the community" mean as a metaphor or physically? How do the layers come together or does tension hold them apart?

I've also been aesthetically responding to facilitation work that I've been doing with a few communities who live along the peace walls in Belfast.

All of this work has come about since starting my Masters course. The strands are coming together and getting stronger. I'm inspired and fascinated...watch this space...

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