By Mia Wallace
May 17, 2016
A city with the history literally painted on its walls can sometimes tell you more than a history lesson ever will. Walking around Belfast, it’s nearly impossible not to notice that nearly every building has some form of street art on it – graffiti, murals, building-scaling paintings. All the different types of street art tell a different story.
Most of the murals in the two cities are political messages to commemorate martyrs and heroes from the two separate sides. One that really stood out to me was a mural in the loyalist Protestant Shankill neighborhood. It was a very heartfelt and adoring mural painted in the honor of a neighborhood resident and idol. The “patron saint” is Stevie “Topgun” McKeag, a UDA (Ulster’s Defense Association) hit-man responsible for 12 reported killings of Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) members and Catholic civilians. Less than 3 miles away in the Catholic Clonard neighborhood, McKeag is seen as a ruthless murderer who committed atrocious crimes against their people. The extreme difference in attitude towards this man and the beautiful mural painted in his honor show just how divided the city still is from the conflicts that happened nearly 20 years ago.
While most of the memorable street art in the city tells a tale of the two sides divided in Belfast, there is a lot more that tells a different story. The street art in and around the city center is less focused on a political agenda and is instead aimed towards artists getting their talent out there and expressing themselves. The streets are covered head to toe with big, beautiful, vibrant paintings. Some telling a story and others casting a splash of beauty on a city with a dark past.
Belfast creates an environment for artists and art to thrive. Whether it is to immortalize a political or prominent figure for the divided neighborhoods or to liven up a city and create a hope for peace — all can agree, Belfast is a painted city.
You can learn more about Belfast’s art scene and the murals that decorate the city here!