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Upon Reflection

Co Author:
Helen Barry

Throughout my work with Dublin’s Culture Connects’ in the South Central area, I have been involved with three groups of women, the Amal’s Women’s Association at the Mosque, One Voice based in F2 both situated on the South Circular Road, and the artistic team.

There has been a number of moments over the months that have given pause for thought and brought new meaning to my understanding of others, of myself and of community. It is perhaps particularly apt that I should write a reflective piece at this point and time.

Helen Barry explaining the stories which the women told about their culture by writing them on to cups. Image by Brian Cregan
Helen Barry explaining the stories which the women told about their culture by writing them on to cups. Image by Brian Cregan

This month we have seen the European Court of Justice allow the banning of the wearing of the hijab in the workplace as part of a policy banning all religious and political symbols. I have sat and worked with Islamic women and also many of their children at the Dublin Mosque. If we take time to look we may realise that the veil and flowing garments in actual fact hinder very little of the individual. The modes and nuances of communication extend far beyond facial recognition.

I have even learnt to identify my new friends from their individual gait at 60 paces. Through laughter and the lift of an eyebrow so much was said. The tone of another’s voice, the animation of hand gestures and the glint in the eye communicate so much more. But perhaps one needs to be a woman to truly understand this.

Louise Osborne greeting guests arriving at Punctuation Exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library. Image by Brian Cregan
Louise Osborne greeting guests arriving at Punctuation Exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library. Image by Brian Cregan

I embarked on this project with an expectation of merging two groups of women into one and instead I found we created three. The third group of women being the artists, Xanthe Gresham, Hanan Dirya and I, and the project coordinator Louise Osborne. Together we formed a small community in itself within the diverse community where we based over several months.

Artists Hanan Dirya and Xanthe Gresham pictured at Punctuation Exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library. Picture by Brian Cregan
Artists Hanan Dirya and Xanthe Gresham pictured at Punctuation Exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library. Picture by Brian Cregan

As a pilot programme, the structure for this project was given the freedom to twist and turn as it formed its own path in understanding and responding to the ambitions and expectations of the communities. Intuitively each of us in this small artistic community trusted the experience of the others. At times it felt as if our shared vision was being carried along by a torrent of water and expectations but it was steered carefully by instinct, persistence, passion and laughter. I would like to thank this artistic team for such a wonderful collaborative experience.

Helen Barry
March 2017

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