Hollywood star Ruth Negga has predicted that the coming years will see many more young Irish actors of colour with Irish accents and she hopes this will buck the stereotype of the “Irish Colleen”.
The award-winning actress said she felt “very lucky” to have trained in Ireland but that many will be surprised when they see a new generation of talented Irish artists emerge.
“I think that Ireland is a multi-cultural place now and I think it’s important to remind the world that there’s going to be a lot of fantastic, young Irish actors of colour that will have Irish accents and I think that might come as a surprise to some people,” she said.
“That’s how we are evolving and I think that’s fantastic and I hope that I can also encourage young Irish artists of colour that they are Irish and necessary, and part of the fabric of the culture of Ireland, and if I can inspire confidence and belonging that’s a good thing.
“In some places, people do have a stereotype of the Irish Colleen and looking a certain way, and I think that in order to be diverse and be a cohesive society and make everyone feel welcome, we have to show the world you can be an Irish person of colour.”
Negga was speaking after she was named among the Irish government’s five new cultural ambassadors, a new role aimed at promoting Ireland’s global footing in arts and culture.
The four new cultural ambassadors joining Negga – including a traditional musician, two internationally famous architects, and a renowned poet – were appointed by the Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan.
The role of Cultural Ambassador will, according to Madigan, “see high-profile figures from Ireland’s arts and culture community promote Ireland globally as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 initiative”.
Musician Martin Hayes, poet Paul Muldoon and architects Shelly McNamara and Yvonne Farrell along with Negga complete the first set of ambassadors under the initiative.
Those involved in the role – which is intended to last a period of three years – will endeavour to raise the public focus on arts and culture as a means of promoting Ireland globally, provide advice and input on strategic cultural initiatives and participate in key events and projects.
Martin Hayes has played the fiddle from an early age, going on to tour and record with guitarist Dennis Cahill for over two decades. He’s also a member of the popular band The Gloaming.
Armagh-born Poet Paul Muldoon, who currently resides in New York, has taught at Princeton University for thirty years. He is the author of 12 collections of poetry including Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize.
Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell are UCD graduates who established Grafton Architects in 1978. They are Fellows of the RIAI, and International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and elected members of Aosdána, as well as being adjunct professors at UCD.
“Ireland’s artists have been outstanding ambassadors for the country, since the era of the creative genius of Shaw, O’Casey, Synge, Yeats and Beckett,” Minister Madigan said of the announcement.
“We greatly appreciate each Cultural Ambassador’s acceptance of the role. In continuing to do what they do best, they will be among Ireland’s greatest representatives globally.”
Last year, after years of austerity cuts to the arts, €1.2bn in capital funding was announced for these areas, along with an increase in current funding for the arts in Budget 2019.