New art initiative celebrates resilience and creativity of older migrant women in NI

A vibrant platform of life stories and experiences of older migrant women has been launched online by Queen’s University through an inspiring arts-based research project.

The project sought to explore the lives and contributions of older migrant women as they forged new lives in Northern Ireland., through a variety of creative mediums, including poetry, prose, knitting, and dance.

The art pieces are the culmination of a series of educational workshops with facilitators including literature study and creative writing, led by the University’s Open Learning Programme which offers accredited courses within communities.

READ MORE: Race crime incidents at all time high in NI according to PSNI figures

READ MORE: Family left 'deeply traumatised' after car damaged in alleged hate crime

Professor Tess Maginness, Project Director, emphasised the significance of the project: “Labels around gender, age and migrant status can often come loaded with preconceptions of individuals. Our goal was to give these women a voice, to acknowledge their experiences, and to celebrate their contributions to our society.

“Art became the perfect medium for this expression, allowing for a deeply personal and emotional connection to the women involved. The art project allowed these women to reflect on their journeys – both physical and emotional – and beautifully illustrates the balance between assimilation and maintaining one's roots.”

Whilst the journeys and experiences of every participant are unique, there are themes which permeate many of their stories.

Many refer to migrating and settling in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the challenges of preserving cultural heritage and maintaining connection to home and the experiences of raising children in a foreign land.

Feelings of homesickness were often compounded for those migrating at a time when communication methods were limited and expensive, and the exchange of goods between countries minimal.

‘The Woman Who Loves Islands’ a participant who relocated a number of times after leaving her Mediterranean-island home, spoke of her terror at the prospect of a final move to Northern Ireland against the backdrop of political violence.

“My knowledge of Northern Ireland was of an island besieged by terror, bombs and conflict. I had just had my third child and the thought of going to such a place with three young children filled me with horror.

“Nothing could have prepared me for such a wonderful surprise – I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people and immediately felt that I had finally come home.”

Professor Sir Ian Greer described the project as “not just a showcase of artistic talent, but a profound sharing of personal histories and collective experiences.”

He went on to say: “It is a testament to the power of art in bridging cultural divides, celebrating resilience and opening conversations around inclusion, identity, and the valuable contributions of migrant communities to our society. This project is a great example of how Queen’s continues to build on its work as a Civic University.”

The Translating Age project platform is available online at https://www.qub.ac.uk/sites/translating-age/.

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our daily newsletter here.