Cork Migrant Centre (CMC) (a Nano Nagle Place (NNP) project) and Cork Printmakers unveiled a significant Black Lives Matter artwork in response to the killing of George Floyd at Nano Nagle Place in the summer of 2020. They wanted to mark that tragic event and also to express their own experiences of racism in Ireland. Working with artist Kate O’Shea, they created 3 stunning murals for front windows of Nano Nagle Place. The launch featured short dance performances, spoken word and hip-hop plus speeches from the artists themselves.
The messages contained in this impressive artwork were created by young people of CMC Youth Initiative, a group which nurtures the resilience of young teenagers living in or just transitioned from Direct Provision centres in Cork. This collaborative artwork by CMC Youth Initiative is a means of creatively expressing their emotions following the murder of George Floyd in America and the recent global surge of the Black Lives Matter movement. Here in Ireland, many young people – not just those from refugee and migrant backgrounds – feel a sense of isolation at times in a country where racial abuse and institutional discrimination is not being tackled effectively.
The artwork was created over a matter of weeks, in collaboration with artist Kate O’Shea of Cork Printmakers and the teens’ mentor DJ Stevie G.
The young artists are: Aaliyah, Amaka, Clare, Colman, Daniella, Elton, Eman, Esther, Ethen, Faith, Isabel, Josh, Josias, Julie, Kimberly, Kimberly, Lilian, Mia, Mira, Muzi, Nanette, Nanette, Rachel, Reem, Sarah, Shaun, Shewa, Sumaya, Ugonna. Through Zoom and WhatsApp brainstorming, the teens were encouraged to generate ideas through drawing, painting, and writing. The resulting artwork features a mixture of graphic design, portraits, text, and words of solidarity from these young people, culminating in a simple but strong message:
“Black Lives Matter – End Direct Provision”.
The artwork also includes contributions from the Climate Youth Artivists, who use their own creativity to provoke change on a number of issues. Recent and ongoing work by them includes the much publicised “Black Lives Matter – End Direct Provision” mural that went up this June on the prominent Sullivan’s Quay.
For the last few years, a number of young people from migrant communities and Direct Provision have been working on multiple artistic projects such as the Hip Hop Teens, led by choreographer Andrea Williams and Stevie G. This has seen an output of numerous high-profile dance performances along with an exhibition and short film at last years’ Indie Cork Film Festival in conjunction with The Glucksman and Shane O’Driscoll of Cork Printmakers.
The launch of this artwork comes in the wake of a recent CMC Youth Initiative Against Racism webinar, where a number of these articulate young people and their mentors engaged frontline service providers in a conversation about positive change for multicultural Ireland. The group has already received proactive communication from several significant bodies, including the Ombudsman for Children, who delivered their own Direct Provision report on Tuesday, 7th July 2020.
The young artists and their mentors had this to say about working on the artwork:
“My name is Elton Sibanda from Drishane Castle. This piece of art was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests all over the world and it was also inspired by the equality of black people and white people.”
“My name is Ugonna Dur from Cork. My picture was inspired by the diversity of humans and how we all have the same colour blood. My other picture is in Japanese and when translated into English means ‘we are one person’, meaning no matter the differences we are all still one species: human.”
REM, young artist, said: “I’m trying to show kids protesting peacefully in painting not in real life; unfortunately, they are used to racism through experience.”
Cork Youth Artivists, said: “The system that causes the climate crisis is inherently racist. Justice must be achieved in all ways and all of us have the power within ourselves to challenge authority and demand change.”
Dr Naomi Masheti, Coordinator of the Cork Migrant Centre (at Nano Nagle Place), said: “Today this visual signalling of solidarity with BLM movement puts into action the words of the founder of Nano Nagle Place, Nano herself – ‘Deeds not just Words’ and that is the message we are sending out to individuals, organizations and policy makers. And for the young people here today ‘Young Black Lives Matter: Decisions that affect them should have their voices front and centre.”
Kate O’Shea, artist, said: “I feel very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to work with the words and drawings of an incredibly articulate group of young people. This is their artwork and their words which I helped to put a structure to. It is important that these voices are given prominent platforms within our cities. It is time to listen to these voices and those who have spent years struggling to End Direct Provision in Ireland.”
Aideen Quirke, Director Cork Printmakers, said: “Following the youth webinar organised by Cork Migrant Centre, myself and the team at Cork Printmakers have been spurred into action to tackle the issue of racism and discrimination faced by young people and their families and loved ones in Ireland. As part of Cork Printmakers ongoing partnerships with Cork Migrant Centre and Nano Nagle Place, we are delighted to be involved with this artwork and will continue to use creative means to take action on the #BlackLivesMatter and #EndDirectProvision campaigns. We have been really inspired by the stories and words of these young artists, but also angered by the discrimination faced by people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. By collaborating with these young people, we hope to express solidarity and support with this campaign and call for everyone to join us in making Ireland a safe, creative space for young people, irrespective of their background.”
Stevie Grainger, DJ and mentor, said: “This is an amazing project from Nano Nagle Place that gives a voice to those who need to be heard most, the young people. It’s a wonderful extension of the work myself, Andrea, Naomi & all the mentors do with the teens and it was incredible working with Kate and Aideen of Cork Printmakers and also the young crew at Climate Youth Artivists.”
This video captures their dance performance during the launch event.