Tag Archives: ireland

The Murals of Belfast

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We woke up with snow on the ground. The pink dawn caught my eyes from the Wellington Park Plaza Hotel, just past Queen’s College in Belfast.

That morning we had much in store. We were to tour the murals of Belfast. Belfast is known for its separatist viewpoints; actual communities living apart from one another, next to one another – separated by what is essentially a wall and ideology. The difference is The UK’s influence vs. Irish influence in Ireland proper (the continent), but rather a UK providence (ownership). Our tour guide, a man removed from Belfast years ago, and the struggles (The Troubles), a professor of Queen’s took us around and spoke on sites. Our bus driver Paul came in with adage as well, as he was from the area himself. We pulled out of the lot and the tour began.

Along the way one takes note of the churches, the pubs, and the ubiquitous barbwire. The stuff was everywhere, hung on fences, adorning walls, sharp and varied. Most of the time it was razor-wire, or these brush type spindles – it would have fabric, torn, attached to it, blowing in the wind. Next to that I saw a fat bird on a stone ledge; it sat there flapping its wings just as our speaker’s mic went out and then some electrical engineering took place. Things were resolved.

In the narrow streets multitudes of repetitive red brick buildings, what seemed most prevalent crowded the road, these narrow passageways. Our tour came to a wall, a solid block of political writing, rich color with bold letters. The images shed light on things which were taking place around the world, not just in Ireland. Murals begged the question, asked about the truth and justice, and called out for help to those in power: “Obama holds the key” one mural said.

Freedom was a topic of most, others were messages of remembrance; remember this event, never forget, and do not repeat history. The messages in Belfast were eerily poignant to me, coming from the land of the free, America. I took in murals asking our country to free our imprisoned volunteers, they asked to let go our political prisoners. When I am stateside they are considered local, neighbors. I read about it here, abroad.

Now seeing this, and the strife and static nature which is the separation of those with money and those lacking, differences, and the comparison of this Northern Ireland to Palestine or Israel, one can take the gravity of their concern with our political prisoners, this Native American: Leonard Peltier. Why should they care? Why is this important? How have I never heard of this person? Why do we in America still have political prisoners? Why is this mural?

These installments of art, these messages struck me deep. They asked me and those with me to look at things a little harder, a little closer, to see what is really important: freedom, truth and justice. Now I sit back in Dublin, in flat 43, I know nothing of Leonard Peltier but what I saw in Belfast, on a mural, and I think, I must do some research because Belfast knows more about my country than I do.

Project: Photograph Ireland

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1. A Literary Image: This photo represents literary works of Irish playwrights, specifically Synge and McDonagh, in The Riders to the Sea and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. This image captures the nature of these isolated islands, and a perspective only their inhabitants may have had; although this distant land is beautiful and cause for awe, it also imposes extreme desolation, and removal from society. What you see here represents the truth in beauty, its binary. Yes, the island of Inishmore is immensely inviting and quite wonderful to experience; however it brings one away from the Irish mainland and its society, and closer to one’s immediate community, for good or ill.

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2. Water: This photo of the River Liffey represents water, a basic human need, within Dublin, and throughout Ireland. The River Liffey flows through Ireland, dividing Dublin, and into the surrounding ocean. Ireland is surrounded entirely by water and made up of water within its largest city. Water is of the inhabitants; 60% of the human body is made up of water. The River Liffey is important as a port, in history, and for supplying water to the polis. It is a quintessential entity for the progress and existence of Dublin. Lastly, the River Liffey is adorned with beautiful bridges, wildlife, and people which offer to the culture of the city. The River Liffey gives life, as translation of the name suggests “An Life in Irish”.

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3. An Irish Architecture Feature: The doors. The Doors? No, not the band. The painted doors of Dublin, actually. In this photo the painted doors of Dublin symbolize divide within the country of Ireland, by way of blue and red paint: English/Irish, Catholic/Protestant, Male/Female, Fate/Decision, and Progressive/Tradition. By way of contrasting these two opposing colors on these two opposing doors, and showcasing their proximity, the viewer is looking into the entry way of a family, a culture, a lifestyle, at the difference in their neighbor, and their beliefs, and seeing life. Ireland to me, in this photo, represents how two people, two ideas, or two (or more) cultures of differing viewpoints can live, interact, and thrive next to one another, offering something unique and poignant to the community and city as a whole.

Inventing Ireland: Glendalough