Memory Map: Annabel Konig and Rathanna Community Group
Funded by the Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme, managed by Create
Memory Map (2018 – 19) was a project that encouraged interaction within the community of Rathanna and its surrounding population. Its aim was to combat rural isolation through social engagement and to record an oral history of the recent, living past: before it was lost. The Rathanna community is a quiet, rural village with a wide reaching diverse population. It has, over the years, changed from purely a farming community to now include immigrants, emigrants returning home and ‘blow-ins’ who opt for a life more in touch with the land.
Memory Map was a series of nine once-monthly open get-togethers in the form of locally relevant story telling sessions and discussions on specific topics relating to rural life. The project culminated in a book featuring locally descriptive photography and text.
Memory Map represents a place as it is perceived by an individual or by a culture moving through it. The stories/discussions are the records of specific journeys, specific events that have taken place, or a marker by which to ground a community.
Rathanna sits deep in rural Co Carlow. The community is mostly made up of settled, older people but there are a few new, younger families who have become part of this extended area. Farming is the main occupation for most who live here, though there are a number of individuals whose work is non farming related.
Through the Rathanna Community Group, everyone in the local area was invited to join in with the project. The get-togethers were publicised in the parish and local newsletters and word of mouth played a large part in spreading the word. An open invitation also went out to neighbouring communities which surround Rathanna village. What brings small villages together is the individual and group sense of pride of place, love of history and the strong feeling of the importance and need for cohesion that allows a community to survive and move forward.
The main aim of the project was to preserve the recent, living history of this community, highlighting the current community’s make up and how life in rural areas is interdependent on its members. To honour community events and to connect to a community’s belief in an inclusive future, especially for those who live in isolation.
A cup of tea was offered at the start of each get-together, this allowed people to catch up, connect and get to know new neighbours. Each get-together was recorded; this oral material was referred to when writing the text for the resulting book. For many get-togethers we invited guest contributors when focusing on specific topics which were relevant to the aims of the project. All the get-together conversations encouraged and reminded participants of the wealth of heritage and community spirit that exists here.
More than 150 people partook in the Memory Map project during its run. Each participant was asked to fill in a short questionaire, stating, if they wished, what topics they would like to have addressed, their contact details and what they expected from this project. Most of those who attended had no connection to the arts nor expected to ever be part of an art project.
The‘Memory Map project resulted in a book which encapsulated the conversations/discussions and recent, living history of Rathanna. The book also featured local, relevant photographs of events, the surrounding landscape and of the community’s placement in rural Ireland.
The launch for the book in itself became an evening of social interaction for all those who attended. The book has been circulated widely and the conversations/connections begun in the get-togethers have continued among the local people. Memory Map enabled people to acknowledge and appreciate that staying connected with each other allowed for the contuation and development of a small rural village. Through some of the discussions, new connections were formed which help people to help each other and allow them to remain living in the area..
Documentation & Dissemination
Memory Map can be viewed on Annabel’s website
Copies of the book are available from Annabel directly: annabelalkonig[at]gmail.com