Not many people get the chance to rule a country. And looking at the world today, some of those who do could have used better training. But tomorrow’s world looks brighter, at least if Irish children have their way. With the help of IBBY Ireland, primary school pupils in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South County Dublin have been creating nations - inventing new countries with laws, languages, flags and holidays, not to mention national puddings.
These 'Nation Creation' workshops are accompanying the Silent Books exhibition on its tour of the country’s libraries from Dublin to Kerry. With the help of writer Debbie Thomas and illustrator Tatyana Feeney, young nation builders begin by stepping into the shoes of refugees such as those arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where the exhibition has its permanent home.
Children explore how Silent Books, with their universal stories beyond words, can comfort, educate and entertain those traumatised by war, persecution or natural disasters. They imagine the feelings that might accompany forced migration: from fear, anger and loneliness to more positive possibilities such as relief and the hope of a better future.
Groups then design their own ideal nation, naming and drawing the country and making its flag out of felt with colours and shapes that symbolise the country’s values or history. We’ve had pineapples representing health and natural abundance; magical, pure unicorns, and white circles of peace.
Laws range from the unsurprising - sweets every day, optional schooling – to the impressive free housing, taxes to pay for health care, bartering systems to replace money, internet regulation, gender equality and bans on guns and drugs. More disconcertingly, while kindness is often enshrined in law, the penalties are anything but: life imprisonment or even public execution.
Still, on the whole the future looks good in Ireland – as long as it’s ruled by under-18s.
You can catch up with the Silent Books Exhibition in dlr LexIcon until May 29, and in Tralee Library from 2-19 June.