Will St. Leger, dedicated artist and activist, has set up a fundraiser for a new art exhibition titled ‘Enough On Our Plates’, “a visual story of survival inside Irish state-run direct provision centres and homeless hubs/emergency accommodation.” The project will involve photographing the lives of people living in dire conditions due to these State-run facilities and printing them onto old dinner plates to be displayed in an exhibition this November.
As part of 2019 Dublin Pride, St Leger was announced as Grand Marshall. Utilising the platform of Pride, he sent a powerful message of rebellion, helping towards breaking the stigma around HIV in Ireland through Act Up. With the upcoming project ‘Enough On Our Plates’, he aims to do the same around the problematic State-run system of direct provision as well as the rise in homelessness across the country.
Set up in the early 2000s, the system of direct provision sought to house people entering Ireland in search of international protection for an “interim period” of six months. In 2019, RTE reported that there are 6,355 people housed in the system, above the Government’s contracted policy.
Niki Dube described the conditions of living in direct provision as “This has been the most gruelling experience I’ve gone through in my life. I’m grateful I’ve got a roof over my head, I’ve got a meal when I’m hungry, I’ve got healthcare, but that’s the very least of my problems. Being in Direct Provision is similar to someone who’s in an open prison. I’ve been reduced from what I was to nothing. It’s a process that takes away a great part of your dignity.”
During the weeks of August 19th to July 25th 2019, Focus Ireland reported there were 10,338 people homeless. Furthermore, one in three people living in emergency accommodation is a child. On International Youth Day 2019, the UN’s Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Broloz called on states to adopt measures to address the rise in homelessness of LGBT+ youths as a direct result of discriminatory practices.
I’m creating a visual exhibit on dinner plates of the eyes of people who are homeless or in direct provision. Help me tell their stories. I'm asking you to donate what you can – Proceeds of sale of my work will go to support groups – https://t.co/LVEnwbPtXx #EnoughOnOurPlates pic.twitter.com/oh45htArPZ
— Will St Leger 🔺 (@WillStLeger) September 27, 2019
Will St Leger described the inspiration of the exhibition as, “I thought about representing the stories of the people in direct provision, the people who are in emergency homes and shelters, and bringing those two narratives together, and through the idea of the plates.” His hopes for the upcoming exhibition is to show the power in people’s lived stories.
The exhibition will also highlight the hypocrisy in those who speak about Ireland being too full to accommodate asylum seekers yet “in the next breath, they be stepping over somebody on the street,” said Will St Leger. “We hear this all the time, particularly detractors on social media saying, we should look after our own first,” he further said, calling out the double standards of this rhetoric and how it comes ingrained in limitations.
Donations made from the fundraiser will go towards the task of photography and print, as well as framing the pieces and hiring a public space to display them. Direct provision and homelessness in Ireland has been kept out of sight for too long, and by bringing these issues into public spaces, the dire living conditions faced by many is brought to light.
An invitation has been extended to people participating in the piece who are in direct provision centres or emergency accommodation to share a meal and talk about their experiences. The final works are intended to be sold at a silent auction, with proceeds going towards MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland) and Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH), a non-profit organisation set up to help Dublin’s homeless.
If you would like to donate towards this inspiring cause, you can do so here.
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