#IamIrish is a creative exhibition curated by Tipperary woman Lorraine Maher celebrating the voices and experiences of Irish people everywhere who happen to be mixed race. Begun in London in 2016 and shown in Dublin in 2017, this growing movement’s exhibition runs at NY Irish Center November 8 – 30. Viewing times vary: please e-mail iamirish@newyorkirishcenter.
Being black or mixed race in 1960s and 1970s Ireland was difficult for many children who struggled with a mixed identity: wanting to be Irish, born there, but not fitting in and being subjected to daily racism. Fast-forward to today and #IamIrish founder Lorraine Maher felt that although people may be better at speaking about racism, not much has changed. On top of that, recent political shifts have allowed people who have racist thoughts to be empowered to no longer hold back or keep quiet.
“I grew up in a beautiful town full of beautiful people but there was racism all around me. I knew I was different but my blackness was never spoken about and I spent my childhood just wanting to hide away and not be noticed.”
In 2016 Lorraine launched #IAmIrish at the London Irish Centre to highlight the experience of black and mixed race Irish because she could never find anyone who represented her as mixed race and Irish in other exhibitions. “I wanted to step out and own my Irishness” she said.
It’s been a journey to uncover and celebrate a more diverse representation of Irish identity and question the notion of ‘Irishness’ and what that means for Irish communities today. Lorraine collaborated with photographer Tracey Anderson to create a series of portraits – an intimate study of the faces, lives and experiences of 22 Irish people who happen to be mixed race. The exhibition went to Dublin in 2017 where more portraits of mixed race Irish there were added to the core collection. Photographs of mixed race Irish individuals and families living in New York feature in CualaNYC 2018.