Whiden Toie (1999 - 01) is a curated festival programme that profiles both well-known and newly established artists and activists from Traveller & Gypsy communities. Performers, writers/ dramatists along with activists and leaders from the Irish Traveller Movement spoke to this forum on their ideas and aspirations for a future for Traveller culture in an inclusive and intercultural society in the 21st century.
The events held have been deeply felt by members of the Traveller and settled community alike, due to the simplicity of being able to attend an evening experiencing the cultural view presented by members of their own communities. Our audiences included Travellers from throughout Ireland, in addition to many members of the settled community and members of local and national government with an interest in experiencing artists and writers presenting Traveller’s perspectives and identity today.
Whiden Toie was established in 1999, implemented through the Galway Travellers Support Group in association with the Galway Arts Festival. The event, which was billed as part of the Galway Arts Festival 1999 programme was an initial step but inspiring experience that created a new dynamic in the presentation and organization of Traveller cultural events. The significance of staging diverse views from artists, writers and political activists facilitated an expression of cultural identity amongst Travellers that was fresh, current, and dynamic.
Whiden Toie 2000 took a further step in the process extending the initial concert programme to include exhibitions, film showings, debates, towards developing a cultural space across a period of four days for Traveller and settled members of society to celebrate the culture of the Traveller community. Our interest in engaging a public stage was guided by a curatorial approach to profile an understanding and respect for culture in all it’s complex forms, with an awareness and analysis of the social and political context within which it is manifested. In discussing issues concerning Traveller culture, we were mindful that cultural identity of the majority settled community in Ireland has been consistently validated and recorded over time, the same cannot be said for that of the Traveller community. Traveller knowledge and culture remains largely unrecognised and disregarded in Irish society despite the many positive contributions made. This has led to a situation where the Traveller community’s sense of cultural identity has, and continues to be eroded, marginalising the community from participating in mainstream society. Traveller culture lies in the values, meanings and identity that the Traveller community shares. In acknowledging that cultural questions are central to the problems facing Travellers, our interest is to reflect cultural practices and new ways of thinking to inform and communicate to society the respect and validation for Travellers by and of themselves.
Whiden Toie is an event involving Traveller performers, activists and individuals, along with organisations the Galway Travellers Support Group, the Irish Travellers Movement, the National Traveller Women’s Forum and Pavee Point Travellers Centre.
Nollaig Ó Fiongháile, Whiden Toie Director