Translating Age: Celebrating the resilience and creativity of older migrant women through Queen’s art initiative

Many refer to migrating and settling in Northern Ireland during the Troubles

The project has brought together from a wide range of cultures and places, including China, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Malta, South Africa
"The river cannot go back" refers to a poem attributed to Khalil Gibran

The resilience and creativity of older migrant women is being celebrated through a new art initiative.

The Queen’s University Belfast project sought to explore the lives and contributions of women as they forged new lives in Northern Ireland, through creative mediums including poetry, knitting, and dance.

Professor Tess Maginness, project director, said labels around gender, age and migrant status can often come loaded with preconceptions of individuals.

“Our goal was to give these women a voice, to acknowledge their experiences, and to celebrate their contributions to our society,” she said.

“Art became the perfect medium for this expression, allowing for a deeply personal and emotional connection to the women involved.

“It allowed these women to reflect on their journeys – both physical and emotional – and beautifully illustrates the balance between assimilation and maintaining one’s roots.”

Many refer to migrating and settling in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the challenges of preserving cultural heritage and and the experiences of raising children in a foreign land.

Like the river on its journey to the sea

There have been many twists & turns

And as I stand and watch the waves

I can feel the connection to home.

—  Extract from Janey's 'The River Cannot Go Back'

Feelings of homesickness were often compounded at a time when communication methods were limited and expensive, and the exchange of goods between countries minimal.

The Woman Who Loves Islands is a participant who relocated a number of times after leaving her Mediterranean-island home.

“My knowledge of Northern Ireland was of an island besieged by terror, bombs and conflict,” she said.

“I had just had my third child and the thought of going to such a place with three young children filled me with horror.

“Nothing could have prepared me for such a wonderful surprise – I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people and immediately felt that I had finally come home.”

Queen’s vice-chancellor Prof Sir Ian Greer described the project as a profound sharing of personal histories and collective experiences.

“It is a testament to the power of art in bridging cultural divides, celebrating resilience and opening conversations around inclusion, identity, and the valuable contributions of migrant communities to our society,” he said.

“This project is a great example of how Queen’s continues to build on its work as a civic university.”

The Translating Age project platform is available online at