Our home-grown hip hop and its new revolutionary writing

Art reviews and news from Chris Hayes, champion of Limerick's bid to be European Capital of Culture

Chris Hayes


Chris Hayes

Our home-grown hip hop and its new revolutionary writing

MynameisjOhn – alter ego of Clare man John Lillis – with God Knows Jonas and MuRLI

RUSANGANO Family are an Irish hip hop group with a lot to say, and they can tell us a lot about Ireland today.

The three members are each from a different country; God Knows is from Zimbabwe, MuRli is from Togo and MynameisjOhn is from Clare – two black members and one white, they’ve all grown-up in Ireland and wear a strong sense of Irishness on their sleeve. All boast strong links to Limerick.

Critics have highlighted them as the faces of a new multicultural Ireland. On the other hand, they’ve been rightly praised for their energetic and insightful music. The songs are filled with stories – such as the song Lights On, where God Knows raps the lyrics, “I landed in Ireland in 2001…”. Here there are layers upon layers of the self, which speak to experiences of immigrants worldwide.

As part of Ormston House’s Murder Machine project, Rusangano Family ran an interactive workshop on Thursday June 2.

The workshop began with an interview with the band members, followed by short performances by their students. After this, they talked about the group dynamic behind their new album, Let The Dead Bury The Dead; MynameisjOhn gave a crash course in making a beat.

The night ended with each audience member contributing a single line to the lyrics of a song, which God Knows and MuRli performed.

The Murder Machine project was launched with a performance by Ceara Conway, and features a floor-to-ceiling installation by The Otolith Group, a series of photographs by George Hallett beside a collection of rare books, and the immersive four speaker sound piece by Linda O’Keeffe – this workshop was another development of this evolving project.

The next development of the Murder Machine project at Ormston House is a discussion between Linda O’Keeffe and Sean Taylor this Thursday June 9, at 6:30pm. O’Keeffe’s four speaker sound installation, titled My Voice Is Still Lost, was launched in Ormston on May 12.

Again, just as like with the Rusangano Family workshop this in-conversation event is not simply a side to the main meal of the exhibition, but intended as an integral part of the overall project.

Working outside the expectation that performances, talks, workshops and events are mere secondary additions to the display of physical art objects provides a very necessary talking off script from the familiar story of how exhibitions typically form.

Yet, there are also echoes of another conversation taking place – just like with the main of EVA, the relationship between Ireland and Africa as countries who were formed, at least in part, by a struggle for their independence from colonial masters.

The extent to which Murder Machine at Ormston House lives up to its identity as an evolving project – with each display of artwork and intervention into the space adding a new layer and reflecting on what has come before – the more there is a sense of energy and urgency.

Much of the conceptual weight of the project is placed on such topics as the post-colonial discourse worldwide, the place of language in forming a cultural identity – even the title and central reference point is taken from a text by Pádraig Pearse. This conceptual foundation has an effect on the objects and events that make up the project, like the literary magazine Transition or the curator’s personal collection of rare books and so on; the written and spoken word is ever present, and this theme of reading and conversation is seen, felt and heard throughout.

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