Woman pays tribute to Tuam babies with tiny hearts collection

Bonnie Kavanagh holds her collection of tiny porcelain hearts. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A child therapist turned fine arts student has created a collection of tiny porcelain hearts as a tribute to the babies of Tuam.

Mature student Bonnie Kavanagh, from Dublin, said her work was an attempt to acknowledge and recognise the loss of so many young lives who ended up buried in a mass grave at the site of a former mother and baby home in the Co Galway town.

The white hearts exhibit is one of a series of ceramic and glass pieces of art now on show in Dublin's Gallery Zozimus.

They are the creation of students from the National College of Art and Design.

Ms Kavanagh, a former child psychotherapist who is now doing a degree in fine arts specialising in ceramics, said the story of the Tuam babies resonated with her.

"The amount of grief and ritual and mourning that would normally be around a loss like that or around grief like that was missing in this - so this is really about grief and mourning," she said.

"Because in those times people weren't allowed to mourn, you just had to get on with it - no mourning, no recognition - so it's just a recognition or to acknowledge, I suppose.

"It's my reaction to it."

She said the hearts symbolised the souls of the lost children of Tuam.

The Tuam home for unmarried mothers, run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours, operated from 1925 to 1961.

Ms Kavanagh hailed amateur historian Catherine Corless, whose research helped discover the mass grave which is believed to hold the remains of around 800 children.

"I was just very taken by Catherine Corless and the way she kept going and was just so driven by this," she said.

"I suppose I am the same generation as Catherine so we remember that kind of secretness around that stuff in Ireland.

"But things are changing."


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