Material Memory  

Exploring the body’s relationship to place

This project intended to explore a divided land and in turn, uncovered a divided self.

As I traveled to Belfast, intending to explore the complex trauma of my ancestral home, my own repressed memories of childhood abuse began to surface. I started to remember things I never knew. In the same way this land didn’t want to be touched or overpowered, neither did my body. We were and are connected.

Part of processing my own trauma has been connecting with the earth herself—by foraging soil from my maternal and paternal ancestral lands and documenting my journey along the way.

I explore my body as a microcosm of this land. I mould her clay into objects that allow me to create ceremony and ritual where I can connect more deeply with her, my ancestors, myself.

These pieces and the happenings they invite, are my way of honouring place and our body’s innate relationship to land. They remind me that being ripped from our connection to Earth is an experience of trauma. And that trauma gets passed on. I suspect that whatever trauma my ancestors experienced as they left their homeland has reverberated down my ancestral line, now living in my body. I suspect this is a trauma that all of our ancestors have experienced at some point. We all carry the grief of being torn from our firt home: the land herself.

This project continues to unfold and evolve slowly over time as I experience it as an outlet for my own processing and healing—a way to reconnect.

[Ashlin is the daughter of a first generation Irish Immigrant. Her Grandmother was born in Belfast in 1930 and moved to Newark, New Jersey in 1946.

All four of Ashlin’s grandparents descend from the Isle of Ireland, where Ashlin now lives.]