Coming Home. Art and the Great Hunger

John Coll's Famine Funeral

Art and the Great Hunger is an exhibition of the world’s largest collection of famine related art and is being shown for the first time in Ireland. The collection, from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, constitutes a direct link to the past of almost 6.5 million Irish, and 40 million Irish-American people. The exhibition may be viewed at Uillinn, West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen until 13 October 2018 (Monday to Saturday: 10.00 am to 4.45 pm) and will be in Derry after Christmas.

The exhibition website: The death and dispersion of 2 million people, followed by a further 2 million emigrations to the end of the century, makes the exhibition an important gesture of cultural reconnection. The Irish diaspora defines Ireland’s place in the world today. The impact of the Famine is still with its descendants—both at home and abroad.

This major undertaking aims to strengthen the deep cultural connection between Ireland and its diaspora by showcasing the world’s largest collection of Great Hunger-related art never before exhibited on Irish soil. Please join with us in making this powerful artistic, cultural and educational endeavor a memorable one.


Walk in here to the Uillinn and you will cry, silently perhaps, but you will weep for the individual losses and the communal loss that dealt a close to knockout blow to the Irish nation, a blow that still reverberates. Who knows how this country would now stand if the four million needlessly lost to us through death and emigration had remained fed and healthy.

One poor soul has reached the end of the hungry road in John Coll's Famine Funeral (above), the corpse carried by a quartet who themselves are on their last legs, each wondering who will remain to carry him. And will there be someone there to identify him and make sure he is buried in consecrated ground? Many weren't given that privilege, vagrants and new-born babies among them.

The exhibition features works that focus on the time of the famine and its aftermath. Paintings dominate but the handful of sculptures, most of them modern, make powerful statements just like Famine Funeral. Many escaped the famine by boat only to die on arrival in New York and they are honoured by Rowan Gillespie's Statistic 1 & 11.
Detail from Rowan Gillespie's Statistic 1
There are paintings by well-known artists such as Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry. Many paintings tell of emigration, a living death as most of those about to board ship were never to return. Gorta, a stark and powerful work, tinged in blue, by Lillian Lucy Davidson, depicts a poorly attended funeral. A child is being buried. The few relations have nothing and face a future of nothingness. One fingers a rosary beads.  Eli Eli lama sabachthani? (My God why hast thou forsaken me?).
Accompanied by a rich and diverse programme of performances, talks, lectures and events at Uillinn, and off-site in other locations in West Cork, Coming Home is a unique opportunity for the people of Cork and visitors to the region alike to experience artworks by major Irish and Irish American artists of the past 170 years such as Jack B. Yeats, Daniel MacDonald, Paul Henry, William Crozier, Hughie O'Donoghue, Dorothy Cross and Alanna O'Kelly. See it in Derry( January-March 2019).

The Uillinn
Associated Events (some now completed):

Explore the West Cork schools programme; a series of artist residencies in association with the Crawford Art Gallery and University College Cork; a unique performance by acclaimed Irish artist Alanna O'Kelly for Schull Workhouse, Anáil na Beatha; a reading by Jeremy Irons of The Cummins Letter – a letter written by a local JP, in 1848, to Wellington describing conditions on Reen and appealing for help, taking place at Reen Farm Sculpture Garden, where internationally renowned artist John Jelly lives with his family; a celebration of the legacy of young women who emigrated to Australia after the Famine called 110 Skibbereen GirlsChronicles of The Great Irish Famine concert with Declan O’Rourke and guests. There are the Famine Stories Walking Tours, garden trails at Reen Farm Sculpture Garden, an artists talk in the gallery with Robert Ballagh, the world premiere of Rua Breathnach’s Welcome To The Stranger at Skibbereen Town Hall, the Canon Goodman Concert with LúnasaPoint Of Departure: A Lament film screening and drama workshops for children, a poetry reading by Cherry Smyth of her long form poem Famished as well as day long field trips, family friendly Discovery Boxes and numerous Heritage Centre Talks.
Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger is a major historical, cultural and educational event, spreading throughout West Cork and over 3 months, that should not be missed.
Visitors to A Taste of West Cork, take note!
See it in Derry( January-March 2019).





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