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Frances Hegarty

Turas (Mothertongue)1995

The Irish word ‘Turas’ means simply ‘excursion’ or ‘journey’, and can also refer to a pilgrimage. Hegarty’s project Turas, with its variety of outcomes, is concerned with the possibilities for cultural restitution following the centuries of emigration that have given rise to the Irish diaspora.

The project began with a journey undertaken by the artist in 1989. Travelling by bicycle, camping en-route, she and her partner/assistant followed the rivers Foyle and Finn inland, from the Foyle estuary to their source in Loch Finn, Co. Donegal. They carried a portable sound recorder and super-8 film camera. Hegarty’s primary intention was to retrace the route taken by Irish emigrants from her home county of Donegal, to the sea port on the Foyle estuary. With this in mind she devised a symbolic, restorative action: taking a sample of salt-water from the mouth of the Foyle ‘back’ to Loch Finn. Scenes were shot at 
significant junctures of the journey, and Hegarty interviewed people living along the course of the rivers. 

Around the same time, the artist filmed a series of interactions with her own mother, then living in Glasgow. In these, she distilled into a series of symbolic gestures the possibility of re-learning her mother-tongue (Gaelic) from a close familial source: a linguistic and cultural analogue of the reverse leave-taking (between emigrant and home-place) inherent to her Irish journey.

To date, Hegarty has made two versions of a film combining mother-daughter and water-carrying sceneswith elements of river topography. These films, Turas (Journey) (1991 & 1994) have been screened internationally, including on RTE’s Cursai Ealaine (1996). Extracts from her ‘Turas’ journal have also been published.

The installation Turas (1995) is centred on the artist’s interactions with her mother, employing a single projection screen as a room-within-a-room, in the gallery. The river is present as an audio undercurrent from which snatches of Gaelic speech emerge. This work was first exhibited in 1995, touring internationally in
Distant Relations, a survey show of Irish, American and Chicano art.

Turas has been discussed by writers including Maeve Connolly (2018) Suzanna Chan (2015), Shiela Dickinson (2009), Hilary Robinson (2000, 2003). 


Duration Duration: 5-10 min
Edition1 of 3
Item NumberACQ.2023.FH.001
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Frances Hegarty, Turas (Mothertongue), 1995, Projection, Duration: 5-10 min, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Frances Hegarty

Frances Hegarty was born in Teelin, Co. Donegal. Hegarty's work includes drawing, film and video, audio and live action, and public art.
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