A new exhibition Something From There (2021) at the National Gallery of Ireland takes a diverse look at the idea of home through the objects we choose to keep. In June 2019, heroine Dragana Jurišić began working with a group of people seeking asylum in Ireland. The original concept was proposed by participant and sociologist Evgeny Shtorn and considered the power of objects in our lives.
The long-term project asks what makes a home? And how do we take home with us? The group worked together with the gallery collections and archives and poet Paula Meehan. In the collaborative sessions, they shared stories and experiences of leaving their country and coming to Ireland. Writing and film allowed the participants to build their personal expression and bring their objects to life.
In keeping with her own creative practice, Jurišić has encouraged the group to give a voice and story to their chosen objects. The results are simple but powerful. In Diaa’s steel cup, we discover a tale of war as the cup tells us how it came to be kidnapped by Suzanne’s brother and brought with him. Leo’s cross is a friend who comforts him in his struggle to find a place to finally call home.
Evgeny’s T-shirt reminds us that even the simplest perhaps overlooked items can become cherished because of the people and times that touched them. And in Ola’s The Yellow Wrapper, or My Yellow Sister the words wrap around me sensually in the strength of her prose. I can feel it on my skin:
“I feel safe when it’s close to me. A tiny bit of where I come from, it acknowledges my origins and my existence. Bitter sweet memories of places long forgotten, or just hidden in tiny faraway places in my mind, raw and rusty places.”
Owodunni Ola Mustapha
These objects represent the people and places in our lives. When someone is forced out of their home, it is often only small things that can be hurriedly thrown in the bottom of a bag. Sharing the meaning of these humble objects is a way to demonstrate the connections between us. It gives a face and voice to the many people waiting to find a home again.
The Something From There group are Diaa Lagan (Syria); Abdulai Mansaray (Sierre Leone); Owodunni Ola Mustapha (Nigeria); Abid Nadeem (Pakistan); Mbiya Theo Ngandu (DRC); Precious Omorogbe (Nigeria); Evgeny Shtorn (Russia); Leo Snygans (South Africa) and Lelo Mary Thebe (Zimbabwe). Not all participants are still living in Direct Provision (Ireland’s reception system for asylum seekers), but many are.
The National Gallery of Ireland is currently closed until further notice, but the exhibition can be partly viewed online.
By Emma Godfrey Pigott