Asha Lyons Sumroy shares with us her black and white photo series that analyses displacement in a personal way. As a person of dual citizenship (British/Irish) Asha is aware of this privilege and turns the lens around to dissect her own roots and mixed ethnicity.
Being brought up by mixed faith parents (Mother: Catholic/Father: Jewish) has also been a huge privilege to me – its shaped my values and how I treat others. I feel deep compassion for both parts of my roots, deep, deep consideration and investment in the struggle and fight of my Lithuanian-Jewish and that of my Irish-catholic ancestors. Though I have, unintentionally but knowingly, chosen one over the other. I am Jewish, and have found home within outspoken, left wing, queer, Jewish space.
A stark contrast to the rural Ireland, farmhouse and nunnery-school my maternal grandmother was born in and left for London from to work on the first computers. She’s only let on to information about her past in drips and drabs. We only found out how old she actually is a few years ago. I know comparatively nothing about this side of my roots. But the Uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes) make me cry instantly.
In 2018 I went to County Mayo, to the dilapidated farmhouse in which she was born – the farm still run by her brother – and neighbouring County Galway where the cousins and aunts and uncles I barely know live. The florist and the butcher were ecstatic to meet Mary Lyons’ granddaughter, but I spent the days trying to navigate being somewhere where I belong, but felt like a stranger in.
These film photographs, taken on an old camera of my grandmothers, reflect the moments I associated with in Galway, some of the feelings of familiarity and of displacement.
Developed and scanned myself, each part of the process was like trying to step into it, but in the end just like the negatives, they stayed these small, moments I had to squint at, peer into. This determined my decision to present the photographs surrounded by large borders. Developing and scanning the film in my uni sink, that process itself, each step was an attempted step towards. I know that Ireland will be a place im trying to step into for my whole life.