‘Coming Home’ is the name of a special, and I would say, a poignant exhibition which has been running all summer in the Art Centre in Skibbereen town. It aims to commemorate and indeed give value and respect to all the many Irish who died during one of the biggest calamities that hit this land. ‘The Great Hunger’ (1845-52) it has been called, and it was a famine that was unprecedented in its destruction, indeed it was the worst demographic catastrophe of nineteenth century Europe. Several million people died or were transported to Australia or Canada, or emigrated to a variety of countries. There is so much history behind this present exhibition, and the talks, lectures and performances that have been laid on as part of this exhibition. How moving this has been, and how healthy – not to dwell on the past to remember it with bitterness, but to appreciate and respect those that suffered during that period in Irish history. Myself as a foreigner I never realised what an effect this famine has had on the present Irish generations, but in a way it has, and that is why it has been so good to bring the hurt and hidden sadness’s from generations past into the open, and to look at this on a nationwide basis. People are then able to let it go, and to have renewed energy and I think that is what will happen. This exhibition brought people back from many countries to experience, up to a point, what it would have been for their ancestors. I went to it early in the summer, and though I am not a very emotional person, I am very sensitive and I could literally feel the emotions around me, I was very moved, but also very happy as it felt like a cleansing for the people who are the survivors and perhaps are living with memories from ancestors that faced starvation, and or, the coffin ships to travel to far off countries in order to survive.
I was speechless walking out of the Art Centre that day.
I would like to dedicate this blog post to my friend Rowena, who is a survivor of ancestors that suffered the workhouse in Ireland, and were transported to Australia.