A spice bag and a sneaky naggin: say hello to the Dublin Hun
Illustrator Aoife Dooley’s affectionate parodies of fiery working-class Dublin women are informed by her experiences growing up in Coolock
Hun Diagram. Illustration: Aoife Dooley
A question you might have overheard in the past few months is “But what is a spice bag?” Or perhaps you have been fortunate enough to have known all along, and are glad people are finally paying attention and asking the right questions.
“A spice bag consists of crispy chicken, red and green peppers, chilli peppers, and chips, all seasoned in a bag. If it’s a fancy curry shop, you get it in a box. It comes with a side of curry sauce and a can of Coke.”
The explanation comes from the woman who has put spice bags into the common parlance of our times and popularised it through the satirical and ever on-point Dublin Hun Instagram account. Aoife Dooley is an illustrator who will be known to many for her “absolutely massive” project of parodying a certain type of Dublin girl – the type who seems to inhale spice bags by the bucket-load – in her drawings.
The Dublin Hun is always “within a 100m of Penneys”, where she likes to spend her “eurdos”, her hair done up in a “hun bun” (where she hides her “sneaky naggin”), sporting her “masso” runners, and her thigh tattoo she got done “for nanny”. She’s fab, bad, and doesn’t give a dotty. Unless you’ve been living under a far distant rock, you will have spotted a Dublin Hun among the packs of girls done up to the nines sporting the latest trends and quickest comebacks if you cross them, “ye tick”.
Dooley’s blog and Instagram accounts are a send-up of a stereotype of girls who, with all their slang, brand of humour and sense of selves have come to epitomise Dublin in many ways. There’s nothing derogatory or offensive about it; its popularity stems from the fact that “there’s a bit of Hun in all of us”, as Dooley puts it. According to Dooley, the best way to describe a Dublin Hun is “very family-oriented and proud of were they’re from. They will never leave their house without a full face of make-up and their hair tied up in a hun bun. They are usually dressed head to toe in Penneys’ best, while sporting Nike Airs (cleaned daily with baby wipes), and wearing neon pink or yellow to bring out their ‘massive’ tan.”
The idea came to Dooley from observing girls she grew up with in Coolock. Many of the expressions and idioms are “based on real-life events, whether they happened to me or a close friend or just something I’ve overheard on the 17A bus.” The Dublin Hun has the zeitgeisty quotability of a contemporary Roddy Doyle: funny, urban, working-class and totally Dublin.
The Dublin Hun Instagram account started as a side project two months ago and has since gained 5,000 followers and been used by a number of radio stations, including Spin 103.8, and Stellar Magazine. It’s what you might call an instant hit. The fans are mainly young women who are “Huns themselves”, Dooley says. Popular shops such as Nine Crows will sometimes repost Dublin Hun’s latest. It is fast becoming a Dublin meme.
The national pastime
Its success can perhaps be attributed to the fact that taking the piss is a national pastime. The Dublin Hun engages in this pastime with razor-sharp observational humour that neither denigrates nor dismisses its subject. In a country where we’ve grown used to devaluing most youth culture with the lazy use of the word “hipster” or the still more idiotic “yuccie”, it’s nice to see a parody of youth culture that acknowledges and empowers for a change, and that is produced by one of our own.
Surprised by the popularity of and response to the Dublin Hun, Dooley has been quick to build on it. She has continued to produce Hun art as well as her other work, and on September 14th she launched a line of Dublin Hun merchandise, including pencil cases, mugs and phone covers. This is a new venture for the 24-year-old, who up to now had been plugging hard at making it in the competitive illustration scene.
She draws in a mock-simple style that is unquestionably feminine. Dooley, a DIT graduate, says friends took issue with her during college for being so focused on work. “I work so hard so it keeps my mind active. If I didn’t have my work I’d go a bit mad, as I’m an anxious person.”
The success of her side project has coincided with another triumph for Dooley: a victory over her struggle with food. After the death of her mother two years ago, her feelings of sadness spiralled into nights of comfort-eating and takeaways: “treats for myself”, as Dooley says. In the past few months, her “relationship to food has changed completely” through attending Slimming World, where they encourage “food optimising”, and she’s 1lb away from her ideal weight. “Now I save my money I’d use on takeaways to buy clothes for the new me.”