Gail Ritchie Contemporary Art
Monuments and memorials are found throughout Ireland and their meaning is normally easily discerned through the design of the memorial, its inscriptions and its documented history in the archive or local library. The figures shown here are mysterious and ancient so their history is less easily read. Known as the Boa Island figures, they are presumed to date from the late Iron Age or early Christian period and they are located in a rural graveyard in Caldragh in County Fermanagh. I first saw them thirty years ago and revisited them for a second time last week. The images above show the larger of the two figures, from each side, the smaller figure being too eroded to be legible. What is interesting is that the figure is bilateral, and is described as Janus faced, despite the fact that there is no connection to the Roman god of the same name. Some say the figure shows Badhbh, an ancient Irish goddess of war. Others say the figure is male on one side and female on the other. On the broken plinth beside the figure is a collection of coins of different dominations, from Ireland and beyond. These have been left as offerings of some sort but who left them and what they asked of the stone deity is as unknown as the origins of the figures themselves. Do we have to know the biography of a monument to enjoy its existance, or can we simply be glad it is still there? Are we obliged to leave something behind - money, a hope, a memory - or can we just reaquaint ourselves with the past and move on leaving nothing behind?
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