Reflections on the Project with the Islamic Women’s Group and the Women of Fatima Mansions by Storyteller Xanthe Gresham Knight
I knocked and the door opened. Then I realised I had been knocking from the inside – Rumi
As part of (Y)our Story, Dublin’s Culture Connects is attempting to share stories and forge links between two Groups on the South Circular Road – The Islamic Women’s Group (IWG) based in the Mosque and the Women of Fatima Mansions.
For me, the leading women of these organisations, have swung open the doors of their respective sanctuaries and given, on different occasions, tantalising glimpses of the wealth of their Community.
Part 2; Ann
A pillar of the Fatima Mansions Community, Ann wears a sizeable silver ring bearing the letters M-U-M. She speaks like a Seanchaí and I am inspired by her descriptions of the old Fatima Mansions, now re-named ‘The Herberton Apartments’ after an urban regeneration project demolished and re-built the flats in close consultation with residents.
On the first floor on the way up we had been taken, there are rows of sculptured hearts displayed in glass. Ann tells us that the inhabitants of Fatima worked with an artist to create them while the new Apartments were being constructed. The initial idea was that the residents would bury their hearts with the demolished Mansions but ultimately that didn’t seem such a good plan. After all it’s the heart that connects the old with the new.
Our workshop is in the Art Room. It’s pristine, full of pictures and paints and a trolley with tea, biscuits and lots of cups. It’s absent, however, of any women to participate. With Christmas around the corner, the women are otherwise engaged. It’s just the artists, Ann and her colleague Sarah sitting around a table.
Sarah assures us that the women would very much like to return the hospitality of the IWG – they loved their visit to the Mosque.
The doors of Fatima are open to all – she insists
The empty room echoes.
Ann takes up the theme.
Bricks and mortar don’t make a building. In the old Fatima Mansions, the back doors faced out towards each other, around a central square. Life was communal, we were in and out of each other’s houses. The front windows faced over the streets so we could see what the children were up to.
Ann runs the knitting group who have created a small model of the old Fatima Mansions. Exhibited in the adjoining room, it is impressively realistic. Hard concrete constructed out of soft wool, lovingly teased into lines and corners. A potent reminder of what does make a building.
Knitting and embroidery are slow processes – you need inspiration, pattern and commitment. The needles are poised. What threads will ultimately weave these two groups together?0