Barbara O’Meara

A Community Collaborative Project with NCCWN

As I read your stories, prose, poems I hear your voices, I see your faces. I recognise the commonality of women who have always had a great capacity to move forward into the unknown, stepping onto unfamiliar territory with resilience and tenacity. We are not without fear but we are holding on to each other, gathering and embracing remotely, offering the support of long distance sisterhood, exploring and finding new innovative ways to create precious moments which will become our memories of the future. Meaningful in more ways than simply bearing witness to our existence or to our survival, we are all becoming each other’s stories in this new unchartered landscape. We are all immigrants in an adopted Covid 19 homeland.

“The immigrant’s heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland”             

                    Mary MacAleese former President of Ireland

The post delivers your stories, handwritten or typed, brave, real, honest accounts of your lives over the past year living with Covid 19. Contributors aged from 82 years old to 6 years old courageously share stories. I have been painting your words, unable to detach from the difficult reading, tapping into your thoughts and feelings, reading text that covers the entire range of human emotions. Words oscillating between despair and optimism and yet, like a hidden code, in every piece of writing there is a message of hope, always hope! So I delve deeply into the darkness between the lines to capture an image, knowing that there is a glimmer of light somewhere on the horizon of every page which will guide me through the inky blackness to the far side.

The devastating news reports are daily: deaths due to Covid 19, the release of the Mother and Child Homes Final Report with women survivors left again in a limbo state, the huge rise in domestic violence against women, millions of mothers worldwide leaving jobs since the start of the pandemic, issues of homeschooling and special needs education, immense pressures on women in both the home and workplace, news which goes on and on. I grieve for all women. Since March 2020 there has been so much overwhelming negative news we are experiencing tremendous lows. This makes the significance of any high all the more powerful and magnified. On January 20th 2021 a young woman standing on the world’s stage needs no such magnification. At just 23 years of age she is a Goddess in a red hair band, exuding words of wisdom beyond her years as she captures global attention with her poetry, holding our hearts in her delicate hands, hands aptly adorned with a caged bird ring. She shines magnificently, unfazed by the media coverage and spotlight of a presidential election as she gives voice to her words:

“For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,

Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.

So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain.

Do not ignore the pain.

Give it purpose. Use it.”

Amanda Gorman Poet

Engaging in any act of creativity is now being recognised an essential tool in adapting and coping with difficult times as well as enhancing feelings of wellbeing.  I am grateful for the great pause in allowing me the time to paint your stories. The painting I have chosen to match my story is my portrait of Mavis Ramazani who founded ‘Cooking For Freedom’ while in Direct Provision, it featured in ‘Black Lives Matter’- Herstory 2021.

‘Thank You’ to all the contributors of ‘Home – Words – Bound’ Community Art Project for your magnificence and for your courage in sharing your stories, ‘Thank You’ to Women Together Tallaght Network WTTN for your ongoing support and creative vision, ‘Thank You’ to the National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks  NCCWN with much appreciation for sponsoring this project.

 www.barbaraomearaartist.com April 2021

Portrait of Mavis Ramazani Founder of Cooking For Freedom 2021

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