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HIDDEN GEMS OF KILDARE

Leinster Leader 4th February 2010

 
LIAM KENNY
 
Hidden gems of Kildare – a fusion of place & person
 
There are a small number of images of County Kildare which are used repeatedly to underpin a certain portrayal of the county’s identity. Images of horses on the Curragh or at Punchestown, for example, tend to feature in publications portraying the county.  But there are many more insights into the identity of Kildare – its people and its places – for those who take the trouble to seek them out.
Such variety is what artist Rowena Keaveny has realised with the project ‘Hidden Wonders of County Kildare’ commissioned by Kildare County Council through its Arts service.  Through the medium of Kildare people passionate about their county she has identified and portrayed a mosaic of images which emphasise the diversity of the strands which make up the identity of Kildare. Some are tangible like Carbury Castle or Castledermot Church. Solid stone work that speaks of the story of the county and the many generations who have left their imprint on its landscape. Other images in the project are more intangible – bringing to life the less obvious layers of the social and cultural life of Kildare. The poetry inspired by the nineteenth century ‘wren’ women of the Curragh and the representation of Nepalese culture in modern Kildare bring to the surface the eclectic nature of the social diversity of the county.

But this project is about far more than a compilation of alternative views of County Kildare. The artist approached her quest for ‘Hidden Wonders’ by enlisting local knowledge and drawing a link between the images highlighted and the people who had brought them to her attention. The project is as much about the process as the end result.
A public invitation was issued for people to put forward ideas for portraying aspects of the county’s identity. Those who nominated were involved with the development of the portrayal of their subjects to the extent that in most cases the individuals were photographed along with symbols of the feature they had nominated. An immediate connection was made between place and personal.
Too often images of Kildare have been regarded as pleasant photographs which might make for a nice postcard but lack the personal touch of the people who know and love the sometimes hidden wonders of the county. Now Rowena Keaveny has brought into focus the connection between Kildare people and their personal interpretations of what living in the county means to them.
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By placing those who suggested the images at the centre of the project the artist has transformed what might have been a photographic assignment into a commentary on how Kildare people see themselves, what brings their sense of place to the surface and what engages their connection with their surroundings and its many identities.
An outcome of the project is a visually appealing and informative booklet which features the images of Kildare together with reflections by the local people who proposed the various depictions for inclusion. Among the people and places featured are: Rosalind Fanning and Ballitore Quaker library; Lee-Ann Sheehy, Springfield House, Celbridge; Liam Kenny, Victorian Railway Bridge, Brannockstown; Margharita Solon, McAuley Place/old Convent, Naas; Nuala Walker, Tea Lane cemetery, Celbridge; Mae Leonard, Sequoia Trees, Tipper Road, Naas; Martine Rigney, Mick Murphy’s pub, Ballymore Eustace; Luka Bloom/Barry Moore, the Bluebell Grove, Monasterevin; Siobhán Conway, the Curragh plains; Naas Fire crew who nominated the Moat hill; Peter Minnock, Roche’s pub, Donadea; Hiralal Ghaine, Nepalese culture in Kildare; Gabrielle Brabazon, St. James’s well, Pollardstown; Dr. Niall McKeith, National Science Museum, NUI Maynooth; Julie Lynch, the Gate Lodge at Castletown, Celbridge; Anita Hendy, horse tie-rings, Allen church; Mario Corrigan, the 100 acres heritage trail, Kildare town; Peggy O’Malley, Brigidine tradition, Kildare town; Aileen-Anne Brannigan, Bapty Maher’s, Athy; Bridget Loughlin, north Kildare monuments; Elizabeth Trappe, Kildare traveller culture; Jade McMahon, Leinster Aqueduct near Sallins; John Molloy, the Great Book of Caragh; KYS, youth culture in the county; Ann Egan, Wren women poet; Jim Kelly, trad music in Athy; Ger McCarthy, The Forgotten Heritage of Kildare book; Theresa Harney, the Granite seat east of Ballymore; and Jonathan Deane, the haunting ruins of Carbury castle.  Copies of Rowena Keaveny’s Hidden Wonders of Kildare can be had from Ms. Rina Whyte, Kildare’s Public Arts Co-Coordinator at KCC Arts Service, Riverbank, Newbridge. Series No: 163.

In his regular feature  'Nothing New Under the Sun' in the Leinster Leader 4th February 2010, Liam  Kenny looks at the many insights into the identy of Kildare - its people and its places....Our thanks to Liam.


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