Young people from refugee and migrant communities have created a mural in Cork calling for an end to direct provision and for a conversation on positive change for a multicultural Ireland.
The mural, by those who attend the Cork Migrant Centre (CMC) based at Nano Nagle Place in the city centre, features words and images created by young black people, many of whom live in direct provision, and was part-inspired by the Black Lives Matter global movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd in the US.
It was unveiled yesterday just days after a report from the Ombudsman for Children found children in direct provision are experiencing a lack of privacy and space in their accommodation, as well as discrimination and racism in the community.
Colman Mkindi, 15, who contributed to the mural and who lives with his mother and brother in one room in a direct provision centre in Cork, said their living conditions are “challenging”.
“We don’t know when we can leave,” he said.
“My message in the mural is that everyone has rights, that black people also deserve to live and that black people can do amazing and cool stuff just like everyone else.”
Dr Naomi Masheti, of the CMC, said she hopes the mural amplifies the voices of these young people, many of whom feel a sense of isolation at times in a country where racial abuse and institutional discrimination is not being tackled effectively.
“It is these kids putting their feelings into art and words,” she said.
“It is them saying something uncomfortable, saying we need to change, and saying we can show you how to change and deal with this uncomfortable topic. They are giving us the words to start a conversation.
“The artwork is them shouting, you must look at us, see us and listen to us.
“This is not just about black lives - this is for everyone. This is not just our fight. This is a fight for everyone who believes in human rights, equality and social justice.”
The young people involved have been engaging with the CMC ‘Youth Initiative’ which nurtures the resilience of teenagers living in, or who have just transitioned from, direct provision centres.
They have worked on dance performances led by choreographer Andrea Williams and DJ Stevie G, and they have produced an exhibition and short film which was screened at last year’s Indie Cork Film Festival, in conjunction with The Glucksman and Shane O’Driscoll of Cork Printmakers.
The messages in the mural were created by young people working with Kate O’Shea from Cork Printmakers through Zoom and WhatsApp brainstorming sessions, with mentor Stevie G encouraging the young people to generate ideas through drawing, painting, and writing.
The mural features graphic design, portraits, text, and words of solidarity from the young people with the strong message “Black Lives Matter – End Direct Provision”.
The artwork also includes contributions from the climate youth artivists who were behind the prominent mural on Sullivan’s Quay recently.
Deborah Aribasoye, 19, who mentors the young people, lived as a child in direct provision after her family arrived in Ireland from Nigeria. She said the young people at CMC are an inspiration.
“They come here every day, they don’t complain, the put a smile on our faces, they are an inspiration and they have become our friends,” she said.
“The Black Lives Matter movement in the US has sparked something in black youth here too. This mural represents so much, it is going to teach them that we can do anything, we can achieve, their voice is doing something,” she said.
Stevie G said: “This is an amazing project from Nano Nagle Place and it gives a voice to those who need to be heard most: the young people.”