Pegeen O'Sullivan reviews Drawing Support 3: Murals and Transition in Northern Irleand by Bill Rolston, Beyond The Pale, £11.95
THIS IS the third volume of Rolston’s collection of nationalist and unionist murals and covers the period from the beginning of the peace process up to the present day. In preserving a visual record of the contemporarry history of the six counties Rolston is doing invaluable work. By its very nature visual history is more fragile than oral history and its preservation can not be left to chance.
It is ironic that this art form, at which nationalists now excel, has its roots in unionist celebrations of King William. The reason why the unionists used to hold this field alone was that the nationalist population was subjected to far too ruthless a regime of suppression to try its hand. The emergence of murals in the nationalist areas is an indication of greater freedom won in over thirty years of struggle.
In comparing nationalist murals with those in Unionist areas, what stands out is that unionist murals are very self referential and inward looking — using reference points such as the Somme and, ironically, the Sons of Ulster who fought to break the connection with Britain in America, while nationalist murals stress solidarity with other struggles the throughout the world — an image of a Turkish woman on hunger strike draws inspiration from Bobby Sands — or make satirical political comment, such as the portrayal of ‘Peter Meddlesome’ as Pinnochio.
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