Clan or Commodity
In the Sperrins, Dalradian Gold, a Canadian company, is seeking to open one of the largest gold mines in Europe, located in North of Ireland. At the same time, local communities are resisting.
This work explores the clashing ontologies involved in this environmental conflict, working with techniques of mapping used in geological survey maps as a tool used by extractive industries and the State to mark the landscape as a mineral rich, as a dead resource waiting to be exploited. However, the humans and nonhumans who inhabit the extractive zone are not passive victims. “Submerged perspectives” (Gómez-Barris, 2017) depict different ways of relating to each other, human and non-human and their agency in resisting extractivism.
This contribution aims to challenge the notion of the Sperrins as Terra Nullius, empty wilderness and essentially a sacrifice zone (Klein, 2015), open to the colonising impulses of the extractive industry. The weavings of human and non-human lives involve visuals of Celtic Ogham Stones, Catholic shrines, the Owenkillen River and the GPO, site of resistance to extractivism that speaks of the local community’s understanding that their water is more precious than gold. These are contrasted with maps that demarcate the zones for mineral prospecting licenses (now 25% of Northern Ireland). Lyrics in Irish by local musician Teknopeasant, are layered on top, of special significance because this area was one of the last Irish speaking areas in Northern Ireland.
V’cenza Cirefice is a PhD researcher at NUI Galway. Her research focuses on community resistance to extractivism in the Sperrins, North of Ireland, through a decolonial, feminist political ecology and ecofeminist lens. To V’cenza, artist, activist research is about moving from the illusion of an all seeing, objective researcher to recognise we are embodied, emotional, subjective beings who participate in the research process with the communities we engage with.
Gómez-Barris, M. (2017). The extractive zone: Social ecologies and decolonial perspectives, Duke University Press.
Klein, N. (2015). This changes everything. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.
To support the resistance in the Sperrins you can:
> Follow the anti-mining groups online: Save Our Sperrins, Greencastle People’s Office, CAMIO, PARK, Love Screen Stop Mining.
> Sign an objection letter and email it to this address email@example.com
This can be done from anywhere in the world and there are almost 40,000 objections to this project!
continue to view Clan or Commodity
The Greencastle People’s Office (GPO)
The GPO has been the site of resistance for over 800 days, a physical occupation of the area that would become a processing plant for the gold mine in the Sperrins. In April 2019, following warnings from the council to remove the caravans, activists responded by placing a caravan in the trees. What other ways of relating to each other exist in the extractive zone? At the GPO there is a culture of care and commoning as locals and their solidarity visitors do more than just resist, they share cups of tea, celebrations, music, stories, strategy and laughter.
The Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone is just a few kilometers from Crocknaboy Hill. The stone is an inscripted burial marker from before 500 AD. Ogham is an early Medieval language from Ireland, also known as the Celtic Tree Alphabet. What other ways of relating to the land, filled with history, ancestors and story exist within the extractive zone? The Irish landscape is full of pre-modern reminders of alternative ways of relating to the land, from fairy trees, fairy forts, dolmens and standing stones. The link to ancestors, the supernatural and the sentient living nonhuman world are never far away; the landscape is social.
The desecration of a Virgin
On top of Crocknaboy hill, close to the GPO, you will find a mass rock and statue of the Virgin Mary. Dating back to the penal laws when Catholics were forced to practice their faith in secret, this monument is a reminder of colonial oppression. Recently in an act of vandalism layered in sectarian and misogynistic meaning the statue was desecrated with the words “whore”. While thick red lines run through maps delineating mineral rich zones; thick red lines run over the Virgin Mary statue marking out a gendered insult. Extractivism is rooted in patriarchy as it actively extracts from, devalues and objectifies both women and nature.
Water is more precious than stone (shot film)
The Owenkillen river weaves its way past the proposed site of the gold mine. Home to rare freshwater pearl mussels, spawning salmon and otters, it’s a Special Area of Conservation. In 2019, local resident and member of Save Our Sperrins, Fidelma O’Kane successfully challenged the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for granting permission for Dalradian to discharge effluent into the river. In this video the nonhuman agency of the river speaks to us through it’s sound and movement, while the 2D map reduces this area to a dead resource to extract from.
V’cenza invites you to support the resistance in the Sperrins:
Follow the anti-mining groups online: Save Our Sperrins, Greencastle People’s Office, CAMIO, PARK, Love Screen Stop Mining.
Sign an objection letter and email it to this address firstname.lastname@example.org
This can be done from anywhere in the world and there are already 40,000 objections to this project!