Crocosmia is the official name for that exuberant roadside flower that blooms all over the west of Ireland. (We call it Feileastram in Irish, or Montbretia). It actually comes from southern and eastern Africa but it has adapted impressively to our misty shores and it now flourishes in the hedgerows adding a luxurious splash of orange colour to the verdant Irish countryside .
Crocosmia is also the name of a group of writers and poets who are seeking asylum here in Ireland.
Today I want to tell you about a collaborative art project between the artist Clodagh Emoe and the poets of Crocosmia. It all started in the garden of the Spirasi Centre – Spirasi is the intercultural NGO that works with refugees, asylum seekers and disadvantaged migrant groups in Ireland.
A weekly gardening session led to the creation of a shared space of equality and a mutually supportive environment. Storytelling developed naturally in this environment and this led to a series of audio works that were subsequently transmitted on the river Liffey, the Lee, the Corrib and the Barrow.
The audio works were sited in specific places along the rivers, on bridges and boardwalks, ‘in-between’ places evoking the precarious situation of each of the writers. Voices in Croatian, French, Kinyarwanda, Luganada and Urdu could be heard on the wind, revealing the hidden narrative of the asylum seekers’ stories.
The project was also presented at Visual, the Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow and then, just recently, a beautiful collection of poems was launched in the Pearse Street Library in Dublin. The poems are complemented by drawings which show the various contours of the countries wherein they are set, the empty linear forms perhaps echoing the experience of the asylum seeker “disconnected from their homeland.”
“I believe that art offers an alternate perspective”, writes Clodagh Emoe, “one that allows us to re-imagine our world. In re-imagining our world, we question the status quo, opening up the possibility of embracing difference.”
As I’ve written before – in these days of global conflict, mounting racism and intolerance, artists can lead the way in promoting diversity and showing concern for minorities.