Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Somber Border (PPF and photo scavenger hunt)

When I visited Northern Ireland recently, Sian and her family arranged for us to go on a Black Cab Tour of Belfast. In addition to covering the general sights of the city, these tours specialize in educating visitors about the "Troubles" which plagued Belfast due to strong political differences between Protestants who want Northern Ireland to remain part of Great Britain and Catholics who would prefer it to become part of the Republic of Ireland or an independent nation.  It's a very complicated issue, with very strongly held beliefs on both sides. The radical fringes of both sides have engaged in sectarian violence which scarred the country for too many years. Although I consider myself politically aware and well educated, the tour made these issues real in a very powerful way.  One of the sights which brought these issues home was a visit to a  "peace wall." I naively thought a "peace wall" was going to be a sculpture, art display or monument to the peace process which led to a cease fire in 1995. I discovered that the "peace wall" is a border (scavenger hunt item #3) between neighborhoods, designed to ensure everyone's safety.  It is really long:
And there were blast marks from where explosives have hit in:
As we toured the areas that are still most adamantly divided, we ran into a few young toughs who overheard me speaking about something that I had seen in "Ireland." They wanted to remind me that I was in Northern Ireland. I acknowledged that of course we were and hastened to explain that I was speaking of  something I had seen in the Republic earlier in the week.
I had been discussing the prominent display of Irish flags I had seen in Dublin because Ireland was playing in Euro 2012. In Northern Ireland, the prominent display of Irish flags signals partisanship.  On the other side, flags and bunting left over from the Queen's Jubilee have blended into partisanship displays in anticipation of the "marching season." The prevalence of the banners and their dual meanings really affected me. 
I created this art journal page to reflect on this:
I like the page because, while it fits within my travel sketchbook, it feels more like an art journal page helping me think through and deal with things I learned while traveling, rather than a sketch of something I have seen. It's a new use of my sketchbook and something I want to do more of. I'm offering it as part of Paint Party Friday and wondering whether others use their sketchbooks to do something beyond simply sketching. (For more entrants in the paint party, go to this link).  Thanks for reading this post, and thanks to Sian for showing us this side of Belfast. I hope I didn't offend anyone.
Belfast is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city, and Northern Ireland is stunningly beautiful. No one should be dissuaded from visiting because of its troubled history. Like many others, I pray for the day when the Peace Walls come down.

17 comments:

helena said...

so interesting to read your reflections on Belfast and the varied meaning of flags

Jimjams said...

Sounds like it was a very interesting tour Rinda - the situation there is SO much better than it was that it's easy to forget that they still don't have true peace.

heart.hearth.home. said...

I am enjoying these reflective moments seen through the eyes of your journal, and how you have woven the peace wall into Hunt no. 3.
It is good to be reminded of these very real issues and wish for more peace and harmony amongst nations.

Elizabeth said...

I admit I was unaware there is a wall separating Ireland and Northern Ireland. This scavenger hunt has opened my eyes to my own surroundings and others.

Melissa said...

Your post was definitely a history lesson for me today!

Jo Murray said...

I'm enjoying your posts and the inclusion of scavenger hunt photos Rinda.

Deb @ Paper Turtle said...

This is a cool post, Rinda. I would have thought by the name "peace wall" that it was something different too - rather than a wall to keep the peace.

I love your journal pages and the thought you put behind them!

Alison said...

I hate 'Marching Season'...the west of Scotland has this too, though not on the scale of NI
Alison xx

Becky said...

Wonderful post Maria-especially meaningful to me as most of my father's family emigrated from Belfast to the Carolinas in the 1790's. I'm glad you made it part of your trip.

scrappyjacky said...

It does bring it home that what is described as 'peace' in Northern Ireland....is still not a true peace.
You've shown that in a very graphic way in your art journal piece.

Irene said...

Your blog makes me more proud of our nation and the freedom we have here. God Bless The USA!

Sandie said...

I visited Belfast a couple of years ago, in relation to work. We had time to spare before our flight home so asked the taxi driver if he could give us a tour. He was very happy to do this but promptly removed the sign from the roof of his cab. When we asked what he was doing, he said his car would be recognised in the Troubled area so it was necessary to be inconspicuous. That immediately bought home that the troubles are far from over, and it was a tour that left a lasting impression. I was amazed at the size of the 'peace wall' and how gates are locked at night, I didn't realise segregation continues to this day. It was quite an eye opening. I love your 'border' photo for the scavenger hunt - that ticks the box!

Carolyn Dube said...

I never would have guessed that the peace walls were what they turned out to be. I love it when I vacation and get a historical/political tour that gives me a point of view I might not typically find in the general media (esp. filtered all the way to the US from Europe). Thanks for taking us along with you! Your journal page that explores your experiences is fabulous! I don't use my journals that way but I wish I did- perhaps I need to start!!

Missus Wookie said...

I've heard several Q peace workers from Ireland/Northern Ireland talking about the troubles and the polarization of people that has occurred across the society. One of them talked about how it is only when visitors mention the barbed wire, the slogans/propaganda on walls/posters and the helicopters overhead that you notice them - otherwise they are just part of the everyday background.

Sobering to realize how long this has been going on and how much more work there is to do.

Abi said...

This is a very interesting post rinda. What a special photograph to have taken. It will stay with you for a long time, I am sure.

Karen said...

A wonderful, thoughtful post. Peace seems to be so elusive in so many places.

Sian said...

It certainly was a memorable day! Interesting to read the comments here and to realise that the misconceptions continue - I see someone has picked up the impression that the wall separates the North and the South..