— Hide menu
Please, do not use one of the images without the artist’s permission.
A Stone Poem in the Ruins – Homage to the Stories of SeanO’Conaill
(installation in a ruined cabin in Cill Rialaig Village in honor of the 21st anniversary of the artists’ retreat)
This land gave us the stories
Story shapes our soul
First she spoke
Now she whispers
They die Untold
Untold we die
Ruins are reminders of what is lost and what endures. In this ruined house babies were born, families lived and struggled, and so many died. Ruins are a testament to the only thing we know for sure; everything changes all the time. By this cold broken fireplace, now open to the brutally beautiful sky, stories were told. These stories are the last link to the first of our people. They were passed down orally century after century through the wisdom of a non-literate people. Living outside the literate world was living outside the power of church and state; they existed in a land that was not entirely human, and linked to a world in which the language of other animals, and indeed, the mountains themselves could be heard. Men become bulls, bulls become crows, hags become rocks, everything shifts and changes in a flexible, yielding, non-static world. This fragile process was dependant on the great minds of story tellers like Sean O’Conaill of Cill Rialaig, and his unshakable faith in the sacred power of the stories.
But the stories won’t be preserved by books alone. Critically, they are stories to be told. To our peril, in this high tech world, we live very much disassociated from the land and other living beings. The preservation of one to one storytelling, in real time, in each other’s presence, without a distancing screen or a page between the teller and the listener is more important than ever. It is not only the stories but the very act of storytelling that must be continually renewed. The Native Americans talked of stories as medicine that came from the land and held the world together.
The stories are us. Through our respect for a land which we have storied, they protect the very earth which in turn nourishes us. They are a different kind of knowledge, a less obvious treasury, for they are the history of our dreams on this wild island of Ireland, here on the edge of the world.
You will find me in the ruins over the course of the festival waiting to tell you Sean’s stories.
When he finished a story, Sean O’Conaill would recite this to the listeners:
This is my story. If there is a lie in it let it be so. It was not I who composed it. I got no reward but butter boots and paper stockings. The White-Legged Hound came, and ate the boots from my feet, and tore my paper stockings!
Emer Martin, Cill Rialaig Village, September 2012
Stonemason Stephen Burke