Thursday, 8 December 2022

Textile Details

"Where are they?", by Irene MacWilliam. (Photo: Irene MacWilliam)


Title of Textile:Where Are They?
Maker: Irene MacWilliam
Country of Origin: Northern Ireland
Year Produced: 2019
Size (cm): 68cm x 68cm
Materials: cotton
Type of Textile: Wall hanging

On 30th August 2010, the UN General Assembly marked the inaugural observance of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Whether by arrest, detention or abduction, enforced disappearance violates several human rights, has a global reach and impacts on the victims, their families and the wider community.

Almost 10 years later, Irene MacWilliam created this piece at the invitation of curator Roberta Bacic “… to draw attention to the ongoing problem of people ‘being disappeared’…in many countries”. The multiple hunched figures convey the scale of those “disappeared/killed/spirited away”, in many cases “without it being reported worldwide”. Her glaring question: “Where are they?” demands answers and justice.

Irene’s focus is on “the anguish in the families of those who disappear…the situation of families being rent apart and how they try to find information to help them in their grief”. The red, torn pieces of fabric symbolises their despair at “the limited success of the searches“, whilst “finding scraps of clothing gives hope of recovering their [loved one’s] remains”.

The “disappeared” in Northern Ireland, those killed and buried in secret by paramilitary organisations during “The Troubles”, are also remembered within this piece. An Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) established by an intergovernmental agreement between the Irish and British Governments in 1999, has recorded sixteen cases of “disappearance”. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) admitted responsibility for thirteen, one was admitted by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and no attribution has been given to the remaining two. To date 13 bodies have been recovered. Taking into account those cases not on official lists, those recovered pre 1999 (not included in the remit and legislation for The ICLVR) and recent paramilitary cases, Conflict Archive on the INternet (CAIN) has recorded 25 cases.

The families of the “disappeared” in Northern Ireland, similar to families of the disappeared elsewhere, continue in their search for justice and closure as well as struggling with the pain of loss and – in the case of those not yet recovered - the lack of knowledge of the final resting place of their loved one.

Owner: Conflict Textiles collection. Donation from Irene MacWilliam
Location: Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Irene MacWilliam

Textile Detail Image(s)