WOMEN’S LIVES: Women’s work in society

Finola Brennan

Reporter:

Finola Brennan

WOMEN’S LIVES: Women’s work in society
The exhibition, ‘Still We Work’, examines the seen and unseen contribution of women to all levels of society and is currently on view until May 23rd in the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny.

The exhibition, ‘Still We Work’, examines the seen and unseen contribution of women to all levels of society and is currently on view until May 23rd in the Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny.

‘Still We Work’, commissioned by the National Women’s Council, was launched last Friday by Eilís Ní Chaithnnia, Membership Development Officer, NWCI and the Donegal curator is Marie Barrett, Inishowen.

Moving testimonies, expressed through text and images, of the unpaid and often unrecognised work that women have done over many years, are captured beautifully in this exhibition.

The concept of this wonderfully innovative project that reflects modern representations of women’s work over the past 100 years since the 1913 Dublin Lockout was the brainchild of curator Valerie Connor.

Five artists, Miriam O’Connor, Sarah Browne, Anne Tallentire and Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth of Vagabond Reviews were commissioned by NWCI to work with women throughout Ireland. Through informal and very relaxed workshops a safe space has been created for women from diverse backgrounds and geographical locations to contribute to this historical work.

Mary Crossan, St Johnston & Carrigans, one of the women who participated in the morning workshop facilitated by Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth, said: “Connecting with other women, hearing women’s experiences and stories re-energises you.

“Capturing women that are so powerful and yet so often invisible needs to be documented. Her story needs to be a part of ‘his- tory.’”

The importance of women from new communities been seen and their contribution to Irish society included and valued was the key message from Vivian McIntyre, a Cuban woman now living in Donegal Town. ‘Fair Exchange- Look at us, see us. We have much to offer, together we can learn from each other.’

Ciaran from Vagabond Reviews, who facilitated the morning workshop with Ailbhe Murphy, said it was a wonderful opportunity to continue the work of In(visible) Labour Factorium.

Over the next month or so they will work with the participants to capture and document women’s acts of kindness, practices of belonging and practises of organising that will be included in the next exhibition of ‘Still We Work’ in Kilkenny.

In the afternoon, women worked with photographer Miriam O’Connor who humorously alluded to how been seen with a camera can get you access to so many events. “People assume you have been invited there and once you are willing to give your name this is slapped on your front and you are free to wonder!’”

Thinking about women and work, representation and visibility, how is work represented? What do we see, what don’t we see?

Many women 100 years on still find themselves in part-time low paid jobs, in un-paid caring roles and while very involved at a community level, are by in large absent from the decision-making structures that ishape their work.

The other artists being exhibited are Anne Tallentire, who provokes reflection on Dublin’s built environment and the role of women architects in it and sculptor Sarah Browne, who has cast objects from women’s working and personal lives which, along with a 12-minute video, explore the extent to which these often overlap.

Photographs may carry the agenda of the photographer, the cause, the organisation. A photograph is not necessarily as our first perceptions maybe.

Aileen mc Gee , Inishowen a lone parent of three and whose son has severe autism, who cares for her family and for her son Cain who has Autism said: “It has been wonderful to be a part of this workshop. Someone who was connected to me placed a value on my life, my work as a full time unpaid carer.”