A friend once told me that good public art should capture your attention and “get you in the gut”. That’s certainly true of the Famine statues on Custom House Quay in Dublin’s modernized Docklands. These gaunt figures commemorate the Great Potato Famine of the mid-19th century (1845 – 1847), referred to as An Gorta Mór –“the great hunger”. The location is historic as it was the site of the first voyage of the famine exodus on the ship Perseverance. The work is entitled “Famine” and was presented to the People of Ireland by Norma Smurfit in 1997.
During the great famine approximately 1 million Irish people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, reducing the island’s population by about 25%. The statues do a great job of commemorating the desperation of the starving as they reach the port with the hope of escaping to America. They reminded me of the starved victims of a Nazi death camps. It must have been an unimaginably terrible and desparate time on the Emerald Isle.
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