Powerful art exhibition pays tribute to babies who died at Tuam home

Powerful artworks depicting the harrowing story of the Tuam mother and baby home have been brought together in tribute to the children who died there.

Paintings, murals, sculptures and other installations portraying the suffering and loss experienced in the notorious institution have been curated into an exhibition opening in Dublin this month.

The home in the Co Galway village of Tuam operated from 1925 to 1961 and was run by the Bon Secours Sisters.

It was one of a number of institutions for unmarried mothers and their children across Ireland which were run by religious orders.

A sculpture by Martine Sterck from Belgium comprised of 796 babies (Niall Carson/PA)
A sculpture by Martine Sterck from Belgium comprised of 796 babies (Niall Carson/PA)

The site at Tuam is to be excavated later this year in a bid to recover the remains of hundreds of babies believed to be buried in old sceptic tanks.

It is feared around 800 children who died in the home were buried in the mass grave without proper funerals. Last October the Government approved the forensic excavation of the site.

One of the artworks going on display in the Inspire gallery in central Dublin is a collection of tiny porcelain hearts, representing the lost babies of Tuam.

Another pays tribute to the Tuam children with a tattered christening robe made from cast glass.

A chalice created with 800 clay pieces shaped in the form of little babies will also be included.

The Innocents, by Clare O’Hagn (Niall Carson/PA)
The Innocents, by Clare O’Hagn (Niall Carson/PA)

Gallery curator Dino Notaro said the aim of the exhibition was to “show love”.

“The exhibition is called Stay With Me. It’s a group of artists coming together to showcase in honour of the Tuam babies,” he said.

“There are a variety of works across a variety of mediums. The emphasis is love, healing and understanding. It’s a human story and through art we want to showcase that.”

Artist Bonnie Kavanagh hangs porcelain hearts (Niall Carson/PA)
Artist Bonnie Kavanagh hangs porcelain hearts (Niall Carson/PA)

Bonnie Kavanagh, who created the porcelain hearts piece, said the story of the Tuam babies had “gripped her”.

“As a mother and grandmother I couldn’t believe these children had been left without any ceremony or ritual or anything,” she said.

Ms Kavanagh said the white bone china she used represented the souls of the children.

“I made one for each child’s silence, each child – 796,” she said.

Curator Dino Notaro hangs Mother of Pearl, by Rachael Keogh (Niall Carson/PA)
Curator Dino Notaro hangs Mother of Pearl, by Rachael Keogh (Niall Carson/PA)

“I cast them and it became quite ritualistic and it really reminded me of caring and minding for a child in the process.

“I’m really happy to be taking part in this lovely exhibition that has the same energy all around of people that were drawn to it like myself.”

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors estimate that around 35,000 women and girls went through nine mother and baby homes between 1904 and 1996.

- Press Association

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