Ahead of Culture Night on Friday September 17th we catch a few words with Dublin Culture Night ambassador Ola Majekodunmi.
“I actually discovered the event through my mother in its first ever year in 2006. She was involved in organising events celebrating African heritage and interculturalism. I’m delighted to come full circle and act as Dublin Ambassador this year.”
What are your own personal cultural underpinnings – things you particularly enjoyed in your youth?
Growing up, I always loved watching films. To me, there was nothing better than going to the cinema with my friends and experiencing that sense of community. As I got older, I would often visit the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar, where they have a wonderful selection of international and foreign language films. Film is something that has always captivated me, and as such, is something I have pursued in my own career. There is a certain universality to film – it’s something that transcends borders. It can break down walls and build understanding, helping us to connect to one another. I’m also fascinated with literature. I studied it in college and have loved it ever since. I’m really looking forward to the event North West Compass in Axis Ballymun. It’s an interactive trail of spoken word and poetry curated by writer Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan, where visitors find their way between Ballymun and Finglas using our creative poetry map. The Irish Writers Centre’s event, A Burning Tide, also looks amazing.
What is your cultural relationship with Dublin like? How have you found it evolving and changing?
I feel like I have engaged a lot more with the city over the past few years (pre-pandemic) and explored what it has to offer culturally. For example, I used to love going out to the theatre, or to a concert or to see a film. We have such an amazing range of venues in Dublin – from the expansive to the very intimate. I also love exploring the city at night. It has such a great vibe. There’s so much talent here and you can simply encounter it in the streets. It’s also great to see the city becoming so much more diverse. It is becoming more inclusive and that makes me so proud as a Dub. Growing up, I felt as though I wasn’t very connected to culture in the city. I felt as though people from diverse backgrounds like myself were rarely celebrated or included in our cultural spaces, so I often felt removed from it. It has taken a while, but we are getting there, but, of course, there’s still more work to do.
What aspirations do you have for our post-pandemic cultural scene?
I just really hope that things will pick up again for Dublin. Simple things like going clubbing with friends, or having cultural or creative experiences. This year’s Culture Night will be a step forward in that direction. I hope young people feel confident to engage with the city again and not feel fearful after all this time. I hope the venues we love are there to go back to. I just want us to be able to enjoy things again, we haven’t had the chance to truly connect with each other since the pandemic began. That being said, while I am excited for us to reconnect in-person, I truly hope that we retain the use of online and virtual experiences. It’s given people unprecedented access to worlds they may have never engaged with in the past.
Which aspects of the Culture Night programme intrigue you? Are there any specific places you’ve never been which you’re keen to explore?
I’m a bit of a history buff, so, I really want to visit the Quaker Burial Ground on Cork Street, it’s a place I’ve never been to before. I’d also like to head to the Chester Beatty to check out their collection – I’ve heard such great things about it and I know they have a wealth of events on the night. I would like to visit the Freemasons building on Molesworth Street again. I was there a few years ago on Culture Night and loved it.
I’m also really excited to see the Dublin Holds My Mind commissions, especially Street Symphony by Irish Modern Dance Theatre. I love dancing. It allows you to feel alive in your own body and connect with other people without uttering a single word. Mother Tongues are hosting my top pick for family-friendly events. They will be in Rua Red with their Interactive Museum of Languages for Children. It’s an immersive experience that promotes creativity and cultural diversity through art, sculpture and games involving the alphabet and different languages. Lastly, I think the event in Smock Alley Theatre is a real gem. Artist Ronan Coyle will be illuminating and animating their banquet hall stained glass window, so people can pause and view this artwork from the street while they move to and from their favourite events on the night!
Responsiveness, inclusivity and integration are key tenets of contemporary cultural practices. How have you found our record on this and what are the remaining barriers to participation in a shared culture?
Dublin has become such a multicultural city, but I think that needs to be reflected in more of the decision-making roles throughout the capital – in the leadership roles of our cultural institutions, for example. As a nation, I think there is still work to be done in terms of lack of representation. Social movements like the Black Lives Matter movement have highlighted the need for diversity in every aspect of society. The greater diversity of backgrounds, social classes, opinions, beliefs the more empathy and understanding we have for one another.
Recently in the arts, there has at least been a conscious effort to promote inclusiveness, and long may it continue. I’ve always found Culture Night to be quite inclusive. I actually discovered the event through my mother in its first ever year in 2006. She was involved in organising events celebrating African heritage and interculturalism. I’m delighted to come full circle and act as Dublin Ambassador this year.
Photo credit: Vanessa Ifediora
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