The speed at which events are triggered in an information saturated world impedes us from cherishing moments that form a part of our history, and with that, being able to treasure the wisdom that those moments bring. Sometimes it’s counteracted by physical elements that impede that part of the story from completely disappearing from the memory of those who lived out the events in person.
One of those elements is the peace wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland; a wall that the British army (remember that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom) constructed to protect the people of the city from the 1969 riots.
The riots began in the late 60’s but things got really ugly in 1969 when protesters and loyalists together with the police attacked catholics and burned their houses. People built barricades but even so, many of them lost everything, and from that point on the army decided to build the wall, which continued to grow for many years later up until the 90’s peace process.
The wall cuts through several streets and consists of several gates which were closed at the first signs of hostilities and on them, sectarian and offensive messages were written.
Up until now there hasn’t been anything that seemed remotely graffiti related, right? Well, we know that there’s graffiti everywhere and it basically transcends culture, religion, and politics. This is one of those cases.
A few writers from both sides (Rask, Movs, Dris… ) and William Smith (a Protestant ex-prisoner and community leader), decided to work together and repaint the wall, and after arduous negotiations they obtained permission and security to paint during Easter of 2009, during a time when still, no one ventured into the area and locals were suspicious of strangers. Even then there were still clashes happening on both sides of the wall.
Currently the wall receives many visits. Ex-felons take charge of explaining to tourists what happened so that history isn’t repeated, and they write peaceful and positive messages on the wall.
The icing on the cake is that those very messages fill the pieces that writers paint on the wall. So in some way or another, the visitors interact with them; they write their messages inside the pieces but the pieces still maintain their meaning and form.
This report was possible thanks to the selfless help of Rask TDAklann. Thanks for everything.