Actress Ruth Negga said she wants to encourage Irish artists of colour, saying they are part of the country’s fabric of culture.
The Ethiopian-Irish actress said it “may come as a surprise to some people” to see so many young Irish actors from different ethnicities.
Negga, 37, was speaking after she was named one of Ireland’s cultural ambassadors.
The award-winning actress said she felt “very lucky” to have trained in Ireland and she wanted to showcase the work of local artists to the world.
The Cultural Ambassadors 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. #GlobalIreland pic.twitter.com/E23BrCUGRk— MerrionStreet.ie (@merrionstreet) January 7, 2019
“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 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.
“I do think there are some parts of the world that will be a shock to.”
I think there is a lot of scripts now with women in lead roles and I've noticed such a difference from when I started outRuth Negga
The actress said that while the industry was moving towards a diverse culture, some were doing it reluctantly.
Negga, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her role in Loving, said she has seen a shift in the number of women in lead roles in film and television.
“I think there is a lot of scripts now with women in lead roles and I’ve noticed such a difference from when I started out,” she added.
“It’s taking a long time and a huge amount of pressure, and it’s taken a lot of people to go out on a limb for that to happen and I am very grateful for it.”
She was joined by master musician Martin Hayes and leading architects Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects.
They and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon were all named as new cultural ambassadors for three years.
They will promote Ireland globally and provide advice and input on strategic cultural initiatives and take part in key events and projects.
The Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan presented the four ambassadors with a silver emblem by silversmith Seamus Gill to mark their appointment.
The fifth ambassador, poet Paul Muldoon, who is the US, will be presented with his award later this week.
Ms Madigan said: “Ireland is known around the world for its cultural and creativity and we recognise and celebrate this.
“Ireland has an important role to play internationally, this is our time.
“Winning our independence was not the end, it was the beginning and today we can be a voice for peace, multi-nationalism, security, free trade, sustainability and social justice in the world.”
She said the roles were voluntary but added that Culture Ireland would fund their travel expenses.