Education should foster; this education is meant to repress.
Education should inspire; this education is meant to tame.
Education should harden; this education is meant to enervate.
Pádraig H. Pearse (1916)
Ormston House, in partnership with EVA International and Making Histories Visible, is pleased to present Murder Machine: a project curated by Christine Eyene in collaboration with Ormston House, featuring Ceara Conway, George Hallett, Linda O’Keeffe, The Otolith Group and Rusangano Family.
Murder Machine revisits thoughts and writings by Irish linguist and activist Pádraig Pearse (1879-1916), one of the leading figures of the Easter Rising, who voiced criticism against the English educational system imposed on Ireland. In his eponymous pamphlet The Murder Machine (January 1916), compiling articles and notes dated between 1912 and 1914, Pearse spoke of a system devised “for the debasement of Ireland”. He described it as a system doing “violence to the elementary human rights of Irish children” and compared it to slave education.
His criticism echoed many of the concerns expressed by leading African intellectuals and anti-colonial activists who challenged the effects of colonisation on African cultures. In South Africa for instance, the usage of European languages in the formation of African modernity quickly became a matter of debate. This was, for instance, the case of the New African Movement (1860s-1960s) that championed the cause of African languages. The iconic Heinemann African Writers Series launched with Chinua Achebe’s seminal novel Things Fall Apart (1958) was not spared such questioning about vernacular languages. In a similar vein, of the Négritude movement that emerged in 1930s Paris, South African writer, activist and educationist Ezekiel Mphahlele once asked: “is African writing in French not French literature?”
Murder Machine brings together Ceara Conway (Ireland), George Hallett (South Africa), Linda O’Keeffe (Ireland/UK), The Otolith Group (UK) and Rusangano Family (Zimbabwe/Togo/Ireland) for an interactive display and a series of monthly public interventions around language, text and literature across histories, geographies and political contexts, through art pieces, performances and archival material previously unseen in Ireland.
These include The Otolith Group’s One out of Many Afrophilias (2014), an installation that summons the energies of the controversial literary magazine Transition, founded in 1961 in Kampala by Rajat Neogy. The piece conjures Transition’s influential Afropolitanism into a fictional environment that combines interior décor with display system and reading room. George Hallett’s original 1970s and 80s photographic compositions for Heinemann’s African Writers Series and his portraits of African writers are presented alongside rare editions of the series, and books from the curator’s collection documenting the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Also programmed in the project: a live performance by Ormston House artist in residence Ceara Conway who will give a dramatic reinterpretation of Roisín Dubh (Dark Rosaleen), the symbolic poem marking the end of Gaelic Ireland; a new piece produced by Limerick-based DJ Deviant (16 April). Linda O’Keeffe will premiere a newly created sound piece responding to 19th and 20th century Irish Independence movements through two key texts: The Irish Declaration of Independence and Pádraig Pearse’s The Murder Machine (12 May). Finally, Rusangano Family will host an informal, interactive workshop looking at the creative processes involved in writing, recording and producing their new album Let the Dead Bury the Dead (2 June).
Thanks & acknowledgements:
Ormston House and Christine Eyene would like to thank the artists, The Otolith Group: Anjalika Sagar, Kodwo Eshun, Hannah Liley; Koyo Kouoh & the EVA International team; Limerick 2020; Making Histories Visible: Lubaina Himid, Tao Lashley Burnley, Mat Birchall; François Larini, the team at canteen, the team at Piquant, Sheila Deegan, Mikael Fernstrom, Mike Fitzpatrick, Chris Hayes, Brian Hodkinson, and Pippa Little.