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Portraits of the artists

 

(Clockwise from top left) Asmaa Kabroussi, Hasna Jdir and Jamila El Qous from Morocco; Branka Elcic and Dana Pantic from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Abena Appiah from Ghana. Photographs by John Kelly

A collection of photographs captured by six immigrant women, with the help of The Clare Champion’s award-winning photographer John Kelly, has been put on display in Ennis’ town centre.

A blank window in O’Connell Square has opened up showcasing the fresh and engaged account of lives lived in Ennis, with the aim of furthering conversation around the integration and evolution of the town’s community.

The One in Five Art of Place photographic exhibition is the work of  immigrants from Agadir, Casablanca, Sarajevo and Ghana who, in recent years, have made Ennis their home. The immigrant story, one of the country’s and the county’s defining features of the last two decades, has yet to be fully reflected in creative bodies of work.  Here in Clare, this exhibition takes a committed step in that direction.

According to Karl Quinn, co-ordinator of programmes at the Clare VEC Adult Education Centre, the breadth and depth of cultures and the richness and diversity of people within the community is still largely untapped and unexplored.

“The Art of Place Project has thrown open the opportunity for artistic expression through photography to six of our Adult Education Students at the Centre and the Exhibition has given our students a voice and a medium to reveal what place and home now mean to them,” he said.

Asmaa Kabroussi, Hasna Jdir and Jamila El Qous from Morocco; Branka Elcic and Dana Pantic from Bosnia & Herzegovina and Abena Appiah from Ghana are representative of the One in Fives. The exhibition gets its title from the 2011 Census in which the population of Ennis was recorded as 19,940 with 3,855 describing their nationality as other than Irish, almost one in five.

Project participant, Dana Pantic described the team experience as really exciting and interesting. “There are similarities and differences between my home country of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ireland and the project helped me understand these more,” she said.

The project began over six months ago with exploratory sessions and workshops and the coming on board of the ‘Champion’s, John Kelly as photographic mentor.

According to John, “It was great to work with them and to learn about their diverse culture and to guide them towards another way of seeing their place place around them. And when their pictures came back I was delighted to see that they had taken on board a lot of the advice I had given them.”

In addition to the project’s conceptual development, making photography accessible, debunking myths around the medium and providing basic technical and composition skills underpinned the methodology. The participants took to the streets of Ennis with confidence and captured their images of place, both the similarities and differences, that connect their lives here to the culture of their homelands.

The One in Five Exhibition is part of a larger Clare Local Development Company (LEADER) – backed Art of Place Project that is currently examining the relationship between artistic expression and the social, cultural and political landscape of the county. Led by a locally based community group Ealaín an Chláir and chaired by Liam Ashe, a retired teacher at St Flannan’s College, the project is devised and co-ordinated by film maker Peadar King and communications consultant Anne Jones.

According to Liam Ashe it is high time that such an endeavour took place.  “Art and culture are enduring features of our cultures from which we derive our spiritual sustenance,” he said. Other members of the Ealaín an Chláir group are Dr Sean Conlan, Richard Collins, Dermot McMahon, Ciana Campbell and Phil Molony.

In addition to LEADER, the project has been made possible with financial assistance from the Adult Refugee Programme and the support of The Clare Champion and the Clare Immigrant Support Centre. The exhibition was designed by Frameworks Media, Ennis.

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