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Message Of The Murals

(Irelandclick.com)

Despite a decline in political art in Belfast in recent years, a murals expert believes the culture of expressing opinion through street art is destined to continue well into the future.

Former South Belfast resident Dr Jonathan McCormick has spent the last seven years pulling together the most comprehensive database and picture library of political murals in Northern Ireland.

In that time the medical doctor has amassed almost 2,000 images of political murals from across the north.

The Scotsman, who now lives and works in Dundee, says wall murals still have a strong part to play in articulating political opinion.

“There are not as many murals in parts of Belfast as there used to be,” explained Jonathan.

“There are several reasons for this and one of them is planning.

“In recent years a lot of houses that have been built are set back from the pavement or have a window in the gable and that reduces the chances of it being used for a mural.”

The expert says that in past murals could be used as a barometer that measured the extent of local feeling on a particular issue.

“Murals have acted as a vital community notice board over the years. They are free from censorship and can sell a powerful political message.”

However in recent years the number of murals in nationalist South and East Belfast have decreased and Jonathon believes their message too is changing.

“There has been a decrease in the numbers of murals in these parts of the city and the tone of them has changed. The character of most of the murals has changed through the years along with the changing political climate.

“The images in loyalist areas are still inclined to concentrate on organisations.

“In the Village we have a lot of murals dedicated to organisations, many of which have not been completed. This goes back to the loyalist feud a few years ago when the different groups were just laying claim to turf.”

But despite the changes Jonathon believes murals will continue to be a feature of street life in Belfast.

“I think murals will continue to be used to convey political opinion and that they will continue to evolve. In recent times loyalists have started to use more sophisticated images to make their point.

“A good example of that is a recent mural in the Shankill which shows a man wearing a suit and balaclava standing next to a photocopying machine - a direct reference to alleged spying in Stormont.

“That is a break from the traditional loyalist image and presents a message of good propaganda worth.”

And Jonathan insists the murals in nationalist areas also have a future.

“Many of the walls that would have been traditionally used in and around Short Strand are no longer available for use and there is a real decrease in murals in this area. But I think they will continue to be used to sell a particular point.”

If you would like to learn more about murals and view some of Jonathan’s images you can visit http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/mccormick/index.php.

August 24, 2003
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This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on August 22, 2003.

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