Murals in Northern Ireland

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Murals in Northern Ireland have become symbols of Northern Ireland, depicting the region's past and present political and religious divisions.

Belfast and Derry contains arguably the most famous political murals in the country. It is believed that almost 2,000 murals have been documented since the 1970s. In 2014, the book, 'The Belfast Mural Guide' estimated that, in Belfast, there were on display. approximately 300 quality murals, with many more in varying degrees of aging and decay. Murals commemorate, communicate and show display aspects of culture and history. The themes of murals often reflect what is important to a particular community. A mural therefore exists to express an idea or message and could generally be seen as reflecting values held dear to that community. In Republican communities the themes of murals can range from the Hunger Strikes of 1981, with particular emphasis on Bobby Sands; murals of International solidarity with revolutionary groups are equally common, as are those which highlight a particular issue, for example the Ballymurphy and Springhill Massacres or the McGurk's Bar bombing. In working class Unionist communities, murals are used to promote loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UDA and UVF or commemorate deceased members. However traditional themes such as King William of Orange, 1690, the Battle of the Somme and the 36th Ulster Division are equally common. Political point of view, Irish, British or International, an event or person(s), with a particular emphasis on the Troubles are clearly recognizable themes.[1]

History[edit]

Murals can be described as a mirror of political change, as they have been painted throughout the last century and display all important historic as well as political developments in the scope of unique wall paintings. In 1908 loyalists started to portray King Billy on a white horse in order to strengthen the orange identity of the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Republican wall-paintings started in the late 1970s and can be seen in particular as a visual display of a social movement, which was radicalized after the IRA took over again in the early 1970s to fight for greater political voice and a reunited Ireland.[2]

Murals for the most part located in working class areas of the North, primarily in Belfast and Derry. Arguably the most well known and easily identified mural is that of Bobby Sands which is located on the side wall of Sinn Féin's Falls Road Office. A close second being collection of Irish Republican and International themed murals which are located at what is known as 'The International Wall.' In Derry, Free Derry Corner, where the slogan "You Are Now Entering Free Derry" was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside is prominent. However, some do not consider Free Derry Corner to be a true mural, as it consists only of words and not images. Free Derry Corner has been used as a model for other murals in Northern Ireland, including the "You Are Now Entering Loyalist Sandy Row" mural in Belfast, which was a response to the republican message of Free Derry Corner, and the "You Are Now Entering Derry Journal Country" mural, which is an advertisement for a Derry publication. Not all murals in Northern Ireland are directly political or sectarian in nature, with some commemorating events such as the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), and other moments in Irish history. Many portray events from Irish mythology, though images from Irish myths are often incorporated into political murals. A few murals avoid the subject of Ireland altogether, instead focusing on such neutral subjects as litter prevention and the C. S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Murals representing peace and tolerance are becoming increasingly popular with school groups who have children either design or actually paint murals in areas around their schools. Additionally, with many paramilitaries now involved in community work there has been a move to decommission many of the hard-edged murals across Northern Ireland.[3] This change was further highlighted in 2007, when the Bogside Artists were invited to Washington, D.C. for the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. The three artists were invited to recreate murals in the Washington Mall.[4]

Examples[edit]

Nationalist and republican[edit]

Unionist and loyalist[edit]

Other[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Maxamillian Rapp: Murals in Ulster: Symbol kultureller Revolution im nordirischen Bürgerkrieg. In: KultuRRevolution Nr. 61/62 2012.
  2. ^ Maximilian Rapp and Markus Rhomberg: The importance of Murals during the Troubles: Analyzing the republican use of wall paintings in Northern Ireland. In: Machin, D. (Ed.) Visual Communication Reader. De Gruyter.
  3. ^ "Old masters change murals". BBC News. 31 May 2005. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 
  4. ^ Taggart, Maggie (22 June 2007). "Painting a New Image of NI". BBC News. Retrieved 28 November 2008. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • B. Rolston (1992). Drawing Support: Murals in the North of Ireland. Belfast. 
  • Oona Woods (1995). Seeing is Believing? Murals in Derry. Guildhall: Printing Press. ISBN 0-946451-31-1. 
  • B. Rolston (1995). Drawing Support 2: Murals of War and Peace. Belfast. 
  • B. Rolston (2003). Drawing Support 3: Murals and Transition in the North of Ireland. Belfast. 
  • Robert. Kerr (2008). Republican Belfast: A Political Tourists Guide. Belfast: MSF Press. ISBN 978-0956026408. 

Download a chapter from the University of Ulster's CAIN website; http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/places/belfast/kerr08.htm

  • Robert. Kerr (2014). The Belfast Mural Guide (Locate Series). Belfast: MSF Press. ISBN 978-0956806918. 
  • Maximilian Rapp: Murals in Nordirland: Symbol der ethno-kulturellen Identität und Spiegel des politischen Wandels. Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2014, ISBN 978-3-8487-1419-3.