Question: What do you get if you throw a few colorful Latinos, a load of Rebel Langers, a “Jack” with his radio stuff and a load of cans of paint together? (Sounds like the recipe for one huge messy disaster, no?)
Answer: Perhaps one of most amazing community arts projects in the history of the Peoples Republic of Cork, a load of murals thrown up in the streets of Roy Keane land, many many things learned, much friendships forged, many memories created to last till the end of days…
All Different, All Equal
4 and a bit years ago at the Dún Laoighre Festival of World Cultures something magical seemed to be in the making. A group of young, hyper, happy, colorful, smiling rebels were busy painting a mural on panels in the peoples park, they were joined by a small group of people from Estelí in Nicaragua, FUNARTE, and the collective project they were working on was called Muralismo. We did a radio interview with them, their theme was “All different, All equal”
Art Encounter 2004
Mayfield Community Arts Centre were the super active group behind this project, with a little help from Trócaire. The following year, when Cork was the European city of Culture, the Mayfield crew took a giant step and organised the Art Encounter. This was an excellent encuentro for the month of July between 36 young artists from Mayfield, from Medellin in Colombia and from the Nicaraguan FUNARTE group, for whom it was a huge change from their normal life with all its critical needs. This time a series of audio interviews were made, see end of post for these.
• The young people worked together using a variety of media from photography to video projections to sculptures, to explore the dreams of young people all over the world and especially in relation to the Millennium Development Goals and the issue of equality.
• To encourage young people to take imitative and action in communicating their opinions and promoting equality
• To encourage expression of sense of solidarity within Europe and the wider world as well as supporting the fight against racism and xenophobia and helping to eliminate all forms of discrimination and promote equality
Process and dreams… the creative process From dreams to reality
The very health thing about the way FUNARTE and the Mayfield crew went about their work was that they placed a huge amount of energy and time into the process of creation, out of which came the beautiful output of the 20 metre long mural. The got the young artists to talk with each other and to explore each others realities in quite a deep way, from this a dialogue began which was steered by the GOALS. out of this, through an inclussive consensus process, the ideas formed as to what they wanted to paint on the walls which would be a full expression of the discussions they had and the views they wanted to communicate to the wider world. When all were agreed, then came the highly enjoyable act of applying the color to the wall. The older lads from FUNARTE were well used to this bit by they expertly shared their skills and, well, you can see the results for yourself.
During these sunny days of beautiful creativity in Cork, ideas of alternative and participative media and the art of communication actions were discussed, this was documented on IMC-IE as the days went by. Various Audio interviews and recordings were made too. A nice connection that overcame the language barriers that were present happened when the bi lingual film “i” or “Eye of the storm” was screened. The film focuses on the rise of Indymedia and how participative media grew during the crisis in Argentina, As John Jordan put it: “i” is stunning, it manages to show the magic of a global network in ways that no other film hasdone before, and it does so with delicacy, elegance and a vibrancy that is irresistable.
From the arts centre to the walls of Mayfield
between 10 and 20 painted murals now exist on different walls throughout the Mayfield community, from the local library to the gable ends of peoples houses. Similar methods of using the mural as a tool to explore issues of identity and expression were employed with a high degree of success. This was the first time seeing Murals of this degree without the ultra high politicization as found in post-War Derry and Belfast. A related sister project in Mayfield, the Mandala Gardens, also needs mentioning, as many a time there was much collaboration.
Murals, Media and Revolution
So whats the big deal with a few young people from central America painting murals on walls in Cork?
Nicaragua is a small country in central America and I think it is or recently was the second poorest country in the continent of America.
Like many places around the world Nicaragua experienced great political, social and cultural change over the last few decades and a revolution sparked in 1979 which led to the Sandinistas overthrowing the old regime through organisation, education and war.
Due to its strong left wing marxist leanings the US under the leadership of Ronnie Reagan came in and supported, with huge financial spending, the army opposing the Sandinistas; the Contras. Eventually after years of war the Sandinistas lost the elections and lost much power in the country in 1990.
When the revolution began painting murals was one of the main cultural events that would happen, murals were a means of communicating political messages, organising communities in group actions, exploring ideas, developing skills.
Many artists came from around the world to help paint murals for the revolution. When the Sandinistas lost power one of the first things the new governement did was to whitewash over the old murals of the revolution, along with changing the history books and education sylabus so that there was not much talk about the countries recent history or talk of a better and fairer society for all. The town of Estelli is still under Sandinista control and because of this the community there have continued and developed their tradition of mural painting, it has now developed from purely political themes to universal themes of equality, education, justice, respect for environment, love of nature……..the group responsible for this is FUNARTE and they formed back in 1988.
A few years back Irish Aid work NGO group Trocaire got involved with FUNARTE and set up a link with them and along with other groups provided much needed funding. FUNARTE works with young people being educated in the basics of mural painting and then going out into the very poor barrios, neighbourhoods, outside the city and starting projects with the kids there, everyone is invovled, all ideas and dreams are taken onboard, group decision making is normaly done horizontally and by consensus. As far as I can tell so far.
A few years back Trocaire set up a link with the community arts centre here in Mayfield, a community on the northern outskirts of Cork City and 2 years ago the first group of Nicaraguans came to Cork for an exchange program which led to the first of many murals to be painted on the walls of Mayfield. From that this art network has grown and this year it sees a group from Colombia involved.
Revolución Sandinista Julio de 1979 (in Spanish)
Revolución sandinista: La ofensiva Final (First of 12 parts, in Spanish)
In Gaeilge (native Irish)
5 – Ta an puc ar buile (the goat is mad)
sing song as from the irish night last night
4 – Nima and muralismo
a viewpoint from one of the ogra cork group