Photos probe what it means to be Irish today
2017-11-01 14:25:00 -

By Michaela Althouse


Yaqoub Jemil BouAynaya prefers the title ‘person of the world’. But his recent exhibition at the Gallery of Photography is all about what it means to be Irish.


Perceived Irishness is a multimedia show that captures what it means to be Irish today. Intended to explore the concept of identity, BouAynaya worked with people all over the country to call attention to the nature of representation through photography, and its potential for strengthening harmful stereotypes.


No background information is provided on its subjects, and visitors are encouraged to reflect on their own cultural knowledge as well as the themes of belonging and otherness in an exhibition that intends to raise awareness and ask questions of personal identity, ethnicity and citizenship and how it determines nationhood.


BouAynaya is a citizen of mixed background himself, with a mother from Ireland and a father from Tunisia. Born and raised in Dublin, he had his first exhibition at the offices of Japanese national broadcaster NHK in Matsuyama, southern Japan, where he was taking part in an Asia-Europe Young Volunteers Exchange programme.


Graduating with a BSc from University College Dublin, he went on to study at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, and worked to grow his expertise in cultural immersion and photography. He also worked as an environmental scientist with consultants TMS Environment.


In 2007, BouAynaya travelled around the world teaching English on the 58th Global Peace Boat Voyage, affiliated with recent Nobel Peace Prize winners at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). BouAynaya says he uses his experiences working and studying at home and abroad to fuel the creative process.


His most recent endeavour is a recently completed PhD on ‘perceived Irishness’ in the Trinity College Department of Sociology, where he is employed as a lecturer. His thesis looks into the reconstruction of Irish identity “within the continuum of liquid modernity”. The photographs and audio of this study provide the basis for his exhibition.


Perceived Irishness runs until Sunday 5 November at the Gallery of Photography on Meeting House Square in Dublin’s Temple Bar, which also hosts a panel discussion on the exhibition on Thursday 2 November at 1pm.


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