THE BOGSIDE MURALS
How can these images possibly be seen
promoting peace and reconciliation?
We are creating a travelling exhibition that tells the story of twelve large murals about The Troubles, painted by the Bogside Artists in Derry, in Northern Ireland.
The murals are on the gable walls of blocks of flats on Rossville Street, that runs through the centre of Derry's Bogside neighbourhood. The murals show iconic moments of The Troubles as they took place on people's doorsteps and attract large numbers of visitors.
At first sight the murals might just look like Republican protest images .. but if you look more carefully, you can see they tell a story that has nothing to do with sectarianism. While continuing the Ulster tradition of using murals for social commentary, the artists use this medium to raise questions about the past and promote cross-community conversations.
The artists have been invited to show their work at venues in England in August and September 2015. Now we need the funds to make this happen.
THE AIMS OF THE PROJECT
to bring the murals to a wider audience beyond the borders of Northern Ireland. At a time of religious conflict throughout the world, this work has never been more relevant.
to raise increased awareness of the ongoing pain and struggles of ordinary people as a result of the 30-year conflict.
to show the power of mural art to express authentic human experience without being sectarian or propagandist.
Tom Kelly, Kevin Hasson and William Kelly
We are three artists working together under the name of The Bogside Artists. We grew up in the Bogside and experienced the Troubles first hand on our doorsteps. Each of us lost family and friends, some of whom are depicted on the murals.
We painted our first mural in 1994 when British soldiers were still patrolling our streets, and our last in 2008, i.e. ten years after the Peace Agreement. From the very beginning we have had the full support of the local people, who made donations towards paint and materials and kept us replenished with cups of tea and biscuits.
We strongly believe that an honest recognition and truthful commemoration of the past is vital for a healthy future of peace and reconciliation. Desmond Tutu once said that wounds must be cleaned out and examined before they will heal and that it is the unexamined wound that festers and finally poisons. Our work shows the wounds. To tell it like it is and was is vital to its catharsis.
Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin
I am an independent philosopher of art (PhD, Amsterdam) currently living in Cambridge, England. I became interested n the murals when I did research on them for a conference on art and peace building at Edinburgh University. The paper will be part of a book to be published by Oxford University Press.
Since then I got to know the artists personally and have been giving talks together with them. Last April we did a day conference organised by Contemporary Christianity and the Irish Churches Peace Project. It was supported both by Derry’s Catholic Bishop and the Bishop of the Church of Ireland, and covered by Ulster TV on their evening news.
I see the murals as an important site-specific work of public art that has emerged directly from the community's experience. While a mere superficial look may dismiss them as sectarian, they do tell a universal human story that speaks to people globally.
We have been invited to show the work at Greenbelt Festival in a tent shared with Corrymeela from 28–31 August, and at Amos Trust in London from 7–30 September.
After that the exhibition will be available for hire or loan by other organisations and institutions.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
We need money to fund
· digital prints of photos of the murals and large scale banners
· equipment to mount the exhibition and run documentary films
· an exhibition catalogue
· shipping and travel expenses
If the money raised exceeds the amount we need for the above, the extra money will go into a murals maintenance fund. The murals are continuously exposed to wind and rain and need regular maintenance. This, as everything else, is done by the artists themselves at their own expense. The artists do not receive any public funding.
The Bogside was at the centre of the civil rights protests about the unjust treatment of the Catholic community regarding votes, jobs and housing. The protests sparked what became known as ‘The Troubles’ – a violent, thirty-year conflict that began on 5 October 1968 with a civil rights march in Derry and concluded with the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998 in Belfast.
Even though the conflict has officially come to an end, people of the Bogside are still living with the pain and loss. The Bogside suffered some of the worst incidents of The Troubles, including ‘Bloody Sunday,’ the fatal day on which, within the space of one hour, 14 unarmed civil rights marchers were shot dead by British paratroopers, leaving the community in shock, disbelief and anger.
Politicians from both sides are keen to put the past behind them and re-brand Northern Ireland as a ‘normal,’ stable and forward looking society. On that agenda the stark images of the murals are unwelcome reminders of the violence of the past and the political powers' shared responsibility in it.
QUOTES ON THE ARTISTS:
'It's outstanding work they have done. The period they were covering was a very historic period in this city and it is very good and positive that so much of that would have been painted by the Bogside artists so that the future will remember the very serious times of our Troubles.' John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
'The murals expressed the fears and memories of the people and, in doing so, assisted them in their struggle for human and civil rights, for peace and justice.' Eoin Murray, writer and human rights activist based in Gaza.
'Tom Kelly is a living embodiment of what it means to be a Christian living over society’s faultlines. He is an example of how one man can make a difference by bringing a spirit of reconciliation and peace into the midst of the most unsettled of situations or circumstances.' Anthony Campolo, sociologist and human rights activist in Stand Up and Be Counted: How to Change the World for Good (1993).
We are grateful for your support to help our story to be told.
We appreciate every contribution you are able to afford.
Every little bit helps!