AN exhibition of 12,000 handmade dolls to remember the babies that died in Ireland’s mother and baby institutions has been launched.
It marks the completion of the Bábóg Project, which was was founded four years ago by Courtmacsherry-based Laura Whalen, with a goal to make 6,000 dolls, one for each of the babies that are believed to have died in mother and baby institutions.
‘Although this initial target number has been far exceeded, the truth of the situation in our country has shown that many more babies have gone unaccounted for and so the Bábóg Project is an attempt to remember each and every one of those lost souls,’ said Laura.
Laura felt compelled to undertake the project after she made a doll for a friend who was born in, and adopted from, a mother and baby institution.
This friend was comforted by the doll and asked Laura to make one for her siblings, including her brother, who sadly died in an institution. While making the dolls, Laura felt each child deserved to be remembered in the same way.
People from all over the world responded to the call-out to take part.
‘Some said they had personal experience of the institutions, or they have relatives that were sent there or were born there, or sadly died there. Stories were told, of shame, of anger and of deep loss. Many others who made dolls had no personal link to the institutions, but had a shared experience of loss, or shame or the experience of what it is to be a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a sister. Some had never even heard of the institutions and participating in the project led them to learn more about this dark part of Ireland’s heritage.
‘With the sheer volume of dolls sent to the project we felt they needed to be showcased in some way which is how the exhibition came about,’ explained Laura.
The online exhibition takes the form of a website by Eventi Management. Every doll is pictured on the site with stories, poems, blessings and songs.
There is also a short film created by Zucca films from December 2020, when a small group of women gathered in a field in Courtmacsherry to lay out all 12,000 dolls together. ‘The film offers a bird’s eye view of the scale of the work and captures the breadth and depth of the love and kindness expressed through each doll,’ said Laura.
There are also plans for a live exhibition which will tour the country, with a date to be confirmed.
Tickets to the exhibition launch on Friday, February 18th are free, but registration is necessary via Eventbrite. The exhibition will be available to see at thebabogproject.com.