Cork Currach project connects migrants to native rivers

A currach built by migrants and inscribed with the Ogham names of rivers in their native countries has been launched on the river Lee.

Cork Currach project connects migrants to native rivers

A currach built by migrants and inscribed with the Ogham names of rivers in their native countries has been launched on the river Lee.

The traditional Dunfanaghy-style currach was built at the Meitheil Mara community boat building yard in Cork city by a multicultural team of people drawn from Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Turkey and England.

They have christened their craft Spider because they said it looks like a spider on the water.

“But also a spider moves well when all its legs move together, just like a rowing team,” Meitheal Mara’s Bernadine Carroll said.

“The aim was to learn new skills, connect with Irish culture, and most importantly, connect with each other.

“This ties well with the legacy of Meitheal Mara, which has long been a welcoming and supportive place for personal wellbeing and recovery.”

Ahmed Usmanjidda and Busani Moyo at the launch of the Meitheal Mara currach, Spider funded by Community Foundation of Ireland and celebrating the migrant community at Lapps Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Ahmed Usmanjidda and Busani Moyo at the launch of the Meitheal Mara currach, Spider funded by Community Foundation of Ireland and celebrating the migrant community at Lapps Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

The boat is the latest migrant-built craft to join the Meitheal Mara fleet thanks to a programme funded by the Community Foundation of Ireland, which was set up to provide a safe intercultural space for migrants and refugees, with a focus on mental wellbeing.

As this latest group were building Spider, they learned about the ancient Irish script, Ogham, and created a design for the boat using Ogham.

The Ogham represent the names of rivers and bodies of water in each boat builder’s country of origin - including the Thames in London and the Zambezi and Kana rivers in Zimbabwe.

One participant who grew up in northern Zimbabwe said the Kana river supplies water to his village.

“It’s the place where we had adventures as boys and learned how to swim. It connects to the Shangan river, which goes into the Zambezi river, so the three rivers from Zimbabwe on the boat connect,” he said.

Ms Carroll said the inscriptions are more than just names - they represent stories and memories that will forever connect person and place.

“The place where one person learned to swim, the place where another person had to flee - but when the boat touches the water, and as each oar makes its stroke, those places will connect with the Lee, with Cork and to their new place, their new community,” she said.

Irina Kondratenko and cultural project manager, Bernardine Carroll of the Meitheal Mara at the launch of their currach, Spider funded by Community Foundation of Ireland and celebrating the migrant community at Lapps Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Irina Kondratenko and cultural project manager, Bernardine Carroll of the Meitheal Mara at the launch of their currach, Spider funded by Community Foundation of Ireland and celebrating the migrant community at Lapps Quay, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

The boat will be used by the Bádíireacht currach rowing club, which has members from all over the world, and which includes a special programme for young people living in direct provision here.

“We hope this boat sees lots of journeys, creates wonderful memories and continues to bring people together,” Ms Carroll said.

“When you see our lovely Spider making its way upriver, think of all the places she represents, and how all those places and stories work together to create the diverse, multi-cultural Cork we know and love.”

The project was supported by The Lantern Project, Welcome English, the Cork Migrant Centre, Le Cheile Family Resource Centre and the Mallow St Vincent de Paul.

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