“It is an ancient land, honoured in the archives of civilisation. Every great European race has sent its stream to the river of the Irish mind.”
― Thomas Davis (1814-1865), Literary and Historical Essays
This small nation’s contribution to the creation of culture and dissemination of knowledge has been extensively documented but how it developed such credentials and capacity is not definitively known. There are several factors contributing to Ireland’s creative potential or what President Michael D. Higgins refers to as the ‘Republic of Creativity.’
Perhaps the most powerful force is one of the physical place and location itself. Ireland’s varied landscapes and light create unrivalled perspectives and panoramas that cannot fail to impress and inspire. The rhythms and extremes of weather that Ireland witnesses in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean are translated into the repeating circular patterns of Ireland’s musical traditions and earliest visual art such as the Book of Kells and inscribed stones at Newgrange.
This tendency for circularity might also be attributed to a unique philosophical tradition in Ireland that considers multiple possibilities not a single fixed reality. This way of thinking may be further reinforced or stimulated by Ireland’s unique experiences of language and history. Ireland’s native and official first language, Irish, is one of the world’s oldest written languages with a rich legacy of lore and literature, songs and sayings yet it has been displaced by English as the most commonly used language. The tendency for different realities such as language to co-exist is also evident in Ireland’s multiple historical narratives.
With all these multiple factors at play it is no wonder that Ireland is a crucible of creativity that encourages so much artistic enquiry and expression to emanate from one place.