The Flight II, ©John O’Grady
14.25″ x 18″ x 0.75″, oil on canvas, ready to hang.
Last week the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins was in Tasmania where he unveiled a memorial to Irish women convicts transported there 170 years ago.
The women, “Mná Díbertha or Banished Women”, made the 16,000 mile journey, facing an unknown country and unknown future, with little hope of ever seeing their families and home again” he said in a moving speech.
His thought provoking speech was the starting point for this painting and a reminder that millions flew from the land to other countries like America and Australia at various times, forced by oppression or wanting to survive dire situations.
When travelling around Ireland, especially in the west, you’ll come across abandoned cottages. Each one once housed a family and the mother was at the centre of that home.
In my painting the abandoned home sits at the top of the hill and is gradually being encroached upon by nature. Our eye is led up through the abandoned field that once would have fed the family living there.
Yes the painting was motivated by those thousands of women that had left the land but also what struck me and Higgins expounded upon, is how history repeats itself.
The memorial, he said, should remind us of “the suffering of migrants of our times” and that the “trauma of displacement and forced exile are not experiences confined to our past”.
Today thousands of people are fleeing war and looking for a safe place they can call home.
They too had a homeland and belonged somewhere and they too are now in need of compassion, understanding and a roof over their heads.
As the song says, home is where the heart is.
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