The Irish language is one of the oldest languages in Europe, having been spoken in Ireland for over 3,000 years. It was once the native language of all people living in Ireland, but today the Irish language is listed as endangered by the global cultural heritage organization UNESCO. Irish continues to be spoken predominantly in smaller Gaeltacht communities, many of which are located in rural areas in the south and west of Ireland. However, a powerful language reclamation movement is taking shape across Ireland and in the vast Irish diaspora. Dr. Kristin Dowell, associate professor of Indigenous Art & Film, is a proud speaker of the endangered Irish language. This summer she received a Seed Grant from the FSU Council on Research + Creativity and a College of Fine Arts Dean’s Faculty Travel Award to support her research on the Irish language, art, and media production.
Dr. Dowell traveled to Inis Meáin, in the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, for a week-long Irish language immersion program taught by Aedín Ní Thiarnaigh. She describes the encompassing experience of the workshop and the location:
Tá Inis Meáin áit fíor speisialta – Inis Meáin is truly a special place. This beautiful island with verdant green fields and dry-stacked stone walls has only 180 residents, and Irish is the language of daily life. The week-long program also included traditional cultural activities such as basketweaving, fishing, sean-nós singing and dancing, as well as visits to historic sites with local Knowledge Keepers.
While in Ireland Dr. Dowell also attended the Galway International Arts Festival and carried out research in archives and collections at the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Irish Visual Arts Library, and the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.
She also visited the studios of artists Méadhbh O’Connor and Miriam de Búrca,whose art works, along with the work of eight other artists, will be featured in an exhibition that Dowell is curating for FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts. Talamh agus Teanga: Land and Language in Contemporary Irish Art, the first exhibition of Irish art at MoFA, will be on view from January 25th, 2024—May 18th, 2024 and is supported by the Florida Humanities Council, the Florida Department of State, Culture Ireland and an Emigrant Support Programme Heritage Grant through the Government of Ireland’s Global Irish Program.
This multidisciplinary exhibition features the work of ten Irish women artists, some of whom are native speakers of Irish and make art work in and about the Irish language. Through dance, performance, music, installations, media art, painting, drawing and sculpture these artists explore fite fuaite, the dynamic interconnected relationships between people, language, land and sea.