Artist, Poet and Musician enter The Lab in Dingle to re-invent Nollaig na mBan.

Áine Moynihan – Ráiteas

Áine Eile – Sin mar a shínímid ár gcuid ephostanna dá chéile, iad ag teacht is ag imeacht go rialta ó thosnaíomar ar an dtionsnamh seo; agus uaireanta agus sinn ag cur síos ar a chéile. Casann rothaí an tsaoil. Im’ bhean óg, ag teacht don gceantar seo ar chuairt, i dteannta an fhir a phósfainn, is isteach go dtí Seán agus Bab Uí Chíobháin, go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu, a thug sé mé: seanmhuintir Áine Eile, cairde a chroí. Ghlacadar liom le cneastacht is le flaithiúlacht.
Is fada roimis sin fós a bhuaileas bóthar ‘Chun na Farraige Síos’. Im’ ghearrchaile i Loch Garman, i dteannta mo mháthair, mo sheanmháthair is mo dheirfiúr óg – Monica – a cónaíonn fós gar go leor do thrá na dtaibhsí sin – Baile Muine. Is ann a thugamar faoi sa Mhorris Minor – na ceapairí, fleascán tae agus liomanáid sa bhúit i dteannta na buicéid, na spáid, an tartan rug agus na héadaí snámha.

Laethanta fada an tsamhraidh ag brionglóidigh cois farraige – farraige ba ghnáthach a bheith ciúin socair, mar bhí fothain ann, agus a sheinn ceol suaimhneasach. Cnocán d’fhéar glas laistiar di. Leathchiorcal de ghainimh órga, carraigeacha ar an dá thaobh á dheighilt ó thránna eile ar chósta grianmhar Loch Garmain.
Cic sa tóin dom ab ea an tAtlantach! Buille chun ghnímh b’fhéidir. Mhaireas ar charraig lom ina lár – Inis Oírr – ar feadh cúig mbliana. Gan éaló ach
i mbád thar farraigí arda, nó séidte mar a bheadh cleite san aer in eitleán beag naoi suíochán. Lá ceomhar amháin chuaigh an píolóta amú agus thuirlingíomar an an oileán mí-cheart – Inis Meán. An raibh Synge ag magadh fúinn? Taibhse eile so-aitheanta i gceo na haimsire.

Ba bheag nár rugadh an chéad leanbh dom ar bhád oíche stoirmiúil ag iarraidh An Ghaillimh a bhaint amach. Ach d’fhan sí slán im’ bhroinn – ‘ina aigéin féin’ tamaillín eile – agus nuair a saolaíodh í thugamar Muireann uirthi – Maighdean Mhara Fhionn. An fharraige ina máthair – an bhroinn mar fharraige – an bhean sa bhád agus ina bád. Fan Inti – mar a thug mo chara Domhnall Mac Síthigh ar a leabhar faoi naomhóga agus turasanna farraige. Chaithfeadh naomhóg a bheith mar chuid den insealbhú seo. Agus b’é Danny a chuir ar fáil dúinn í. Is in Inis Oírr leis a bhuaileas le hÁine Eile don chéad uair – ag comhdháil ealaíne eagraithe ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta. Scannán dá cuid á thaispeáint ann – píosa oibre cumasach – a spreag dán ionam. Bhí sé tráthúil leis gur anso sa Lab a thug Áine agus mé fhéin faoi oibriú le chéile don chéad uair agus go raibh baint ag an bhfarraige agus ag an oileán ceomhar eile Árannach sin leis an obair – nuair a tháinig sí i gcabhair orm chun seit an dráma Chun na Farraige Síos le JM Synge a phéinteáil. Gineadh saothar eile ag an am a thug anso ar ais sinn le chéile – spreagtha ag an ndráma agus ag an spás.
Is ansan atáimid anois. Áít inar triailadh mórán – fós ina spás trialach. Bhí an áit lán de raic na saotharlainne nuair a thángas uirthi don chéad uair. Buidéil agus demi-johns caite timpeall. Iarsmaí ó nascadh agus múnlú na heilimintí. Ba mhaith liom mo chuid den obair seo a thiomnú do gach éinne a chabhraigh chun An Lab a bhaint amach agus a chuidíonn chun é a choiméad sa tsúil.

Áine Eile – the other Áine. That’s how we signed off our emails to each other, a regular flurry of them since we started on this project, and also how we refer to each other at times.
As a young woman, coming to this area for the first time with the man I would marry, he took me to visit his dear friends, Seán and Bab Uí Chíobháin, Áine’s grandparents. They overwhelmed me with kindness and generosity.
But there were long roads yet to be travelled before we would come to land here – sea roads as well as land roads. A decade was spent living on two offshore islands – Inis Oirr agus Oileán Chléire.
It was much earlier still that I first went ‘Down to the Sea’ – Chun na Farraige Síos. As a child in Wexford, with my mother, my grandmother and my little sister, Monica, who lives even closer now to that strand of ghosts – Ballymoney. We would head off in the Morris Minor – the sandwiches, flask of tea and lemonade stowed in the boot along with the buckets, spades, tartan rug and togs.
Long summer days spent dreaming by the seaside. A sea that was generally calm, as there was shelter there, and that played peaceful music. There was a grassy hillock to the rear. A semi-circle of golden sand, rocks on both sides dividing it from other beaches on the sunny Wexford coast.
The Atlantic bowled me over. Not a mortal blow – more a push into productivity! We lived on a bare rock in its midst – Inishere. No escape unless by boat over rough seas, or blown about like a feather in the wind on a tiny nine-seater aircraft. One foggy day the pilot went astray and we ended up on the wrong island – Inishmaan. Was Synge laughing at us? Another familiar ghost in the mists of time.
My first child came close to making her entry into the world on a boat one stormy night as we attempted to reach Galway. But she stayed safely a little longer in my womb, her very own ocean, and when she was born we christened her Muireann which means ‘fair one of the sea’.
The sea as mother – the womb as sea – the woman a boat and in a boat. Fan Inti (stay on board – literally – stay in her) as my friend Domhnall Mac Síthigh called his book about naomhóga and seafaring. A naomhóg had to be part of this installation. And it was Danny who provided it for us.
It was in Inishere that Áine Eile and I met for the first time when I revisited the island some years ago to attend an arts gathering organised by Ealaín na Gaeltachta. A video piece of hers was exhibited there – a powerful work – that later featured in my poem ‘Ealaín ar Oileán’.
Coincidentally, it was here in An Lab that Áine and I worked together for the first time – on another project related to the sea and to that other fog-bound Aran island – when she came to my aid with set-painting for JM Synge’s play Chun na Farraige Síos. It was then that this idea was born – inspired by the play and by the space.
That’s where we are now. In a place of much experimentation – still an experimental space. The place was full of a kind of raic, the residue and wreckage of the old school laboratory. Bottles and demi-johns strewn about. Relics from the binding and shaping of various elements.
I’d like to dedicate my part in the work to all who helped to bring An Lab into being and to all who keep it alive with their continued support.

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