Migration in Dialogue – Interviews with Ashley Chadamoyo and Oisín Ó Dubhshláine

While I was in Dublin, Ireland, I had the chance to interview two very interesting young adults involved in initiatives related to inclusion and cultural promotion in Ireland.

Ashley Chadamoyo (she/her) is a 21-year-old student of journalism. She is a Writer, Radio Host & Producer, and has a vast experience in the arts, film and theatre. Her love for the arts has been following her since a very young age, as she joined a filmmaking group when she was only 16. Ashley and her friend Aisha created the GALPAL collective in 2020, and I had the chance to learn all about it with Ashley herself.

Telma: Starting with the first question… So, I wanted to talk to you about the GALPAL collective. How did the idea of GALPAL came to life?

Ashley: Me and Aisha met in a filmmaking group (…), we were the only two black women. (…) Whenever we pitched an idea, we were always, like, almost being sabotaged. Our vision wasn’t being seen as, as important in comparison to our straight white male counterparts. So, we were kind of sick of being in environments where ideas, which were good ideas, were being shifted aside in favour of ones that weren’t as well thought out. Or even just the fact that we weren’t given equal opportunity.

And then Summer of 2020 happened, the Black Lives Matter marches were going on, and it was the combination of that and what happened in our filmmaking group, that this idea of the GALPAL collective began – a collective of making people who wanted to get into the arts (…) a space where everybody’s ideas would be seen and where we could conceptualize ideas together.

Telma: What makes GALPAL stand out from other collectives in Ireland? Like, how does it fill in a gap in Irish society? I think you kind of already answered, but…

“It’s for every kid who felt ostracized and like they didn’t particularly belong in a community and space.”

Ashley Chadamoyo

Ashley: When we started, we were the only collective who was doing what we were doing. So, any other Arts collective was very much music-focused, and visual media-focused. And then we thought, okay, we want to also do poetry and short stories, and we want to have articles; to have a mix of media. And it would be solely a collective of women, people of colour, and queer folk, which other collectives hadn’t really seen (…) because many of the collectives at the time were very male-dominated.

Now we’re moving away from content creation and more into community cultivation and community outreach, which is one of our main goals. (…) and opening it up so that everybody can feel like they’re GALPAL and allowing more collaboration between people and, yeah, just giving people the opportunity to try different stuff within the arts that they never tried before.

Telma: Given that, what moment made you feel the proudest of GALPAL?

Ashley: I don’t think there’s a specific moment. I think I look back at what we did and what we’ve managed to achieve in two years as two young working-class black women, and to the fact that, you know, we were being featured in national magazines. When we set up GALPAL I was only 19 and Aisha was turning 20. And to have this recognition in the Irish creative scene for the skill in which we do is the thing that makes me the proudest because we didn’t really have anybody to look up to. Yeah, I just feel proud of it all the time because we created that from scratch.

Telma: To finish off: if you had to pick one word to describe GALPAL what word would it be?

Ashley: I’d say welcoming. It’s supposed to be a space that is open for everybody, to feel like they belong. It’s for every kid who felt ostracized and like they didn’t particularly belong in a community and space. I want anybody to know that, like if GALPAL’s name is on it, then it’s for you. This is an open and loving, kind, and nurturing environment that comes with no judgment.

Ashley was very real with me about her experiences as a young working-class black woman and her life goals of making a positive difference in her community by creating GALPAL and focusing on community building through art, especially radio and the art of writing.

Meeting Ashley, her family and her friends was an amazing opportunity, as I have never met so many people within the same social circle who are so involved with their community and the social issues related to it. It is truly inspiring to be around people as bold, passionate, and dynamic as Ashley.

Oisín Ó Dubhshláine (he/him) is 20 years old, he studies Law and loves stories and old, fantastical tales. He is very proud of his Irish heritage, and so the preservation and the evolution of the Irish language are of great importance in his life. As such, Oisín got into storytelling at a very young age, and now he organizes storytelling events.

Telma: How did you get into storytelling?

Oisín: When I was a kid I was always interested in Irish stories and tales, so I used to read the classic Greek and roman tales, particularly Irish legends, but I wanted to see what more Irish stories had to offer. So, in 2020 I started listening to the podcast “Fireside”. It was this guy who would tell Irish stories and explain them, and he’d have these sound effects that would make it sound like he was around a fireside.

Telma: Very cool! So, what kind of expectations did you have before starting storytelling?

Oisín: I set up the project with kind of the three aims I suppose. I wanted to make a place where people could come and share stories, but… I didn’t want it to be just the typical Irish stories that have been told over and over again; I wanted it to be new and I wanted people to feel welcome in it as well.

I also didn’t like the idea of a static definition of Irish and because Ireland has always been immigrated to and settled on, I wanted to build a place where people could come and share their stories (…) and develop what it means to be Irish through storytelling. And now it’s become more about community outreach – it’s the place where people go when they don’t know where to start, and then they can figure it out.

Telma: Since you said that a lot of people come around and just tell their stories or traditional stories from their countries… There is a bit of migrant integration and inclusion related to this, right?

Oisín: Yeah! So, all of our events work every 6 weeks, it’s based on the Celtic calendar. (…) And we had one in September for the Autumn equinox, which was called “Building Ireland”. And the series was called The Invasions of Ireland. For the series, it was six episodes in which I went through the six main myths of Irish settlement before Christianity. And then for the event, I invited speakers to come. I wanted to look at the difference between the legendary ideals of coming to Ireland. There was one group that had actually been kicked out of the country and they were returning because it was their homeland. It was like their promised land. And so, looking at that and discussing why are people motivated now to come back, what was so special about this place… So yeah, there’s definitely a multicultural element.

“I saw a movie recently that was all through Irish and it just, it really does feel… like a part of who I am.”

Oisín Ó Dubhshláine

Oisín: Yeah, so I took a break in March and the event in September was when we first came back, I thought that was the best one that I ever did. I changed the format. I started by opening it to the audience. I asked them what they thought Irish culture meant, and how they felt connected to it. Then I had the presentation of the stories and then all I had to ask was “What did we think of that?” And the conversation just took off. It was incredible, they all seemed to engage very well. Now I want to make it more engaging and I want to create more of a dialogue.

Telma: I know that you are also very in the preservation of the Irish language. Why is it so important to you?

Oisín: I mean, for me, it’s part of my identity. It really is part of who I am. I only communicate with my brother through Irish.

Telma: Really?

Oisín: Yeah! I was raised with Irish, my parents sent me, my brother, and my sister to an Irish school so that we would have good Irish. My dad asks me sometimes to only speak Irish to him, my mom teaches a play school all through Irish. So everyone in my house has Irish to some level.

I’ve gone to events where things are spoken through Irish. I saw a movie recently that was all through Irish and it just, it really does feel… like a part of who I am. I guess, sometimes it pisses me off that I have to speak in English [laughs]. (…) Yeah, for me it’s, it’s not even about preservation. It’s about the change. It’s about the development. Because, you can preserve something in a museum, but then it stays there the way it is. And the more we talk about preserving Irish, the more people get turned off from it because it seemed like this old thing.  The reason that it’s so important to me is because it’s tied to the origins of the meaning of Irish culture.

Telma: So, the last question is, as a young person, are there any other projects or groups that you actively participate in?

Oisín: Well, I’m a member of SPECHAT, which is the Eurobug International Youth Chat. We talk about different issues, different social issues, and this was how I got my foot in the door to become part of Eurobug. So, I take part in different international exchanges, and now I’m going to be part of a project run by Eurobug, called “Bridges Not Walls” podcast, where we will talk about different youth exchanges that took and will take place under the “Bridges Not Walls” projects, what it’s like to become a youth leader and what impact it has in the community. And my goal for the podcast would be for more young people in Ireland to become aware of it [the exchanges].

It was so heart-warming to hear what Oisín had to say and feels about Irish culture. His passion and respect for his heritage, the way he has been connecting with it and pushing others to get to know more and be in contact with what makes Ireland the country that it is, is incredibly moving.

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