Skip to content
A black and white photograph with a man on the left, a woman in the centre and another woman on the right. All figures are looking into the camera.

Martina Attille

Dreaming Rivers

Dreaming Rivers (1988) is a film written and directed by Martina Attille for Sankofa Film & Video. In this allegorical work, actor Corinne Skinner Carter performs the role of Ms T, a black Caribbean woman in transition. Her children Daughter (Angela Wynter), Sister (Nimmy March) and Sonny (Roderick Hart) sit at her bedside and attend to the unspoken intimacies of history and transnational belonging.

Considering the legacy of Dreaming Rivers Alice Rekab has written a short text to accompany this film. Sometimes our dreams depend on what is not available explores the film’s influence and resonance within the artist’s own experience of intergenerational migration and its significance within the FAMILY LINES PROJECT.


Sometimes our dreams depend on what is not available

Dreaming Rivers was released by Sankofa Films in 1988 when I was one year old. (I am the white passing child of a mixed marriage born in a very white space.) The Dublin of late the 1980’s and early 1990’s was a monoculture and I was the only one I knew with a Black dad and a Black grandmother.

I learned our story by heart. I carried a photo, who we were and where we came from. I taught people how to say our surname. These were fragments of lives remembered, and retold, woven together to make some kind of sense to anyone who asked the question “where are you from?”

Because of my light skin tone, people questioned if I was my father’s child. (Unreliable, suspicious, unlikely.) I lived twenty nine years of a life before I saw anyone who was, and who looked, like me on screen.

In Dreaming Rivers I saw for the first time a family that looked like mine, tonally and emotionally. (I didn’t know there were grandmothers like mine out there in bedrooms and in grief just like mine, the shared spaces of the African Diaspora.) This was underscored all the more by the variation in our geographical placement, Attille’s vision of a Caribbean maternal space, and mine that of a Sierra Leonean.

The resonance of the Atlantic passage Dreaming Rivers lays over and enmeshes with my histories and memories and into my work speaking to the loneliness of Black women in mixed marriages far from home. Telling me about the cold, the isolation and the physical dependence.

Martina Attille’s Dreaming Rivers inaugurates the FAMILY LINES project through its representation of intergenerational migrant experience, its veneration of domestic space, and the personal, syncretic relationship between the maternal and the objects of devotion in her home. The few things she has power over. I often consider my grandmother’s experiences of powerlessness in relation to her husband and her children, how she negotiated a city/country/location/new place and found her space of sanctuary in her bedroom, during the time she spent here in Dublin from the mid 1960’s to 2014 when she died.

Presenting Dreaming Rivers at the start of the FAMILY LINES project is a way to share/stating/making clear my artistic heritage. It pays respect to the work of Martina Attille and asks what this film could do and mean for another generation of African descent living in Ireland today.

Alice Rekab, September 2021

About the Artist

Current Events

Alon Benjamini
Golden Retriever

As part of our Response Series Musician Alon Benjamini has created the musical piece Golden Retriever: A musical response to Uri Aran’s exhibition Take This Dog for Example. In this new composition, certain parts are directly influenced by specific pieces within the exhibition, while others are inspired by the emotions and visions evoked by the exhibition as a […]

Upcoming Events

Liz Magor
In conversation with Georgina Jackson

The Douglas Hyde is delighted to present a walk through of the exhibition The Rise and The Fall where artist Liz Magor and our Director, Dr Georgina Jackson, will discuss some of the themes, subject matter, histories and ideas of the work on show. The event is free and everybody is welcomed, but booking is […]

Sophie Béhal
Animation Lab

Participants in this interactive Animation Lab will use their imaginations to discuss and visually explore the nature of memory. The lab will consider questions like: What is memory? How does memory change over time? What about memory is special? Participants will create their own creative responses to these ideas through animation.  The Animation Lab is […]

Daranijoh Sanni
Sonic Lab

In this lab, participants will experience sound in its different forms and reflect on the emotional responses that sound provokes. Daranijoh Sunni (E the Artist) will create and isolate different sounds and vibrations for participants to experience – and then ask them to think about and discuss the feelings, emotions, and responses they have to […]

Dr Georgina Jackson
On Uri Aran

Dr Georgina Jackson, Director of The Douglas Hyde, will lead a tour of the current exhibition by Uri Aran, Take This Dog for Example. Comprising a series of sculptures, video and photographic works, this is Aran’s first institutional exhibition in Ireland. Through his work, Aran explores the basics of language, behaviour, perception, and the rules […]

Art & Ideas

Artists present us with new perspectives on the world we live in. Explore the exciting ideas behind our programmes, hear more from the artists we work with and discover new ways of engaging with art.

Art & Ideas into your inbox