Art houses invoke the forgotten civilian victims of the Easter Rising

Public contribute installations to remember each of the 262 civilians killed in the Rising

The Sackville Art Project remembers the 262 civilians killed in the Easter Rising. Members of the public created art houses to honour them in an exhibition that runs until April 24th in the National Botanical Gardens. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

In February last year ceramic artist Ciara O’Keeffe heard the Jim McCann song Grace for the first time.

She realised she knew nothing about the subject of the song, Grace Gifford, who married Joseph Mary Plunkett - one of the signatories of the Proclamation - on the night before he was executed.

It got her thinking of all the others associated with the Rising who had been forgotten about over the last century particularly the 262 civilians who died and were never honoured until recently.

Invoking the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur who stated that “to be forgotten is to die twice”, she resolved to honour each and every civilian killed in the Rising.

The result is the Sackville Street Art Project, an entirely crowdsourced project where the public have contributed an art house for each civilian casualty.

The contributors were professional artists, schoolchildren, art students and even young offenders. Each gave of their time and talent for free and each creation was meticulously put together based on the lives of those who were killed.

Ms O’Keeffe said: “Two hundred and sixty two strangers stepped up to the plate. We have an exhibition which is the most amazing, powerful emotional exhibition that I have ever seen. This is 262 civilians of 2016 remember 262 civilians of 1916. ”

The educational unit at Wheatfield Place of Detention built a hollowed out 19th century tenement to remember Margaret Daly (60) who was a tenament resident.

The first year pupils of the mixed media school at De La Salle Waterford built a townhouse to remember father and son Thomas and Christopher Hickey who were victims of the massacre by British soldiers during the searches of North King Street. The walls of the house depicts the mass card circulated after their deaths.

Margaret Farrell powerfully evokes the tragedy of William Moore (44), a railway clerk who went out to sweep up the broken glass on the Thursday of the rebellion and was shot dead. A little figurine is shown lying in a pool of blood with a broom in his hand outside his house.

The cherubic features of Sean Foster, the youngest victim of the Rising, are displayed on the walls of the Georgian house meant to represent his short life. He was just two when he died. Appropriately, an angel protrudes from the hollowed interior of the house.

Holden Stodart of St John Ambulance was tragically killed while administering to the wounded. He is remembered by Rathgar High School and by past pupil Jillian Godsil who designed 40 Merrion Square in honour of his memory. It was converted into a temporary hospital by St John Ambulance during the Rising.

The exhibition has opened at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and will go on until April 24th, the actual anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Ms Godsil said they were now looking for a permanent space for the exhibition. “You have to see it to believe how beautiful it is,” she said. “We don’t have a permanent home for these homes. It would be a double indignity if these did not find a permanent home.”