‘Ordinary People’: an exhibition of standing up to hatred
by Allan LEONARD
21 January 2023
“It’s the farmer in the field, and the pilot that he finds,
Hides him in his barn, till all his wounds have healed.
Or the baker making extra bread, to give a starving man,
Or people helping people, who they’ll never see again.”
The poem, “The Ordinary People”, by Sharon Kerr, is one of the dozens of items on display at an exhibition at Bangor Carnegie Library, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2023, remembering the millions killed in the Holocaust as well as genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
The exhibition of the same name displays artwork and stories from local schools, community groups, and individuals, to educate viewers of the atrocities yet moments of hope.
A bulletin at the gallery entrance explains the theme, where “ordinary people were involved in all aspects of the Holocaust” and other genocides:
“Ordinary people were perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers, witnesses — and ordinary people were victims.
“In every genocide, those who were targeted faced limited choices — but in every genocide the perpetrators have choices, ordinary people have choices. Sometimes, these choices were limited too, sometimes they had to make life-threatening decisions. And ordinary people were the ones who made brave decisions to rescue, to hide or stand up. But ordinary people also made decisions to ignore what was going on around them, to be bystanders, to allow the genocide to continue.”
The exhibition items are a mixture of handcraft creations — such as watercolour and ink drawings, multimedia art of objects and printed quotations, and wood sculptures and architectural models — to prepared educational items — such as rollup banners concisely describing each genocide and panel displays with survivors’ stories. The quality reflects the skills and talents of the members of the dozen participatory groups. Perhaps one of the more accomplished items was a sculpture by John McCausland for Decorum NI — depicting a Star David, constructed with barbed wire and affixed with a skeleton key and words “Freedom 1945”.
This blend of educational materials with community-based art evokes an intimacy that information sheets or commissioned art alone might miss. Some displays will provoke more response than others, but the totality of the collection compels you to consider the inhumanity of any genocide, anywhere, anytime.
At the end of the exhibition is an opportunity to submit feedback, write a note to tag on a peace tree, and take away a booklet about Holocaust Memorial Day.
The exhibition is part of a series of events organised by Ards and North Down Council. On Wednesday, 25 January 2023, a child survivor of the Holocaust will speak at an event in Bangor Town Hall. For the other days of the week starting 23 January, the other genocides will be commemorated with a series of online talks from survivors.
The exhibition participating groups are: Ballywater Seniors, East End Residents Association, Glastry College, Glen Community Church, Decorum NI, Holywood Men’s Shed, Portaferry Men’s Shed, Priory Integrated College, Scrabo Women’s Group, SERC, St Columbanus College, and St Columba’s College.