I just finished reading The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky, the same author who wrote Salt: A World History (which I’ve heard a lot about but have not read). It’s the first book I’ve read about Basque history, or Basque anything really. I’d say it the book makes for a good introduction/overview–a basic political history of the area that’s not too heavy on the politics…even though it is the politics of the situation that I am after. Hmm. My friend wrote a book about radical Basque youth movements that I hope to read next, and I’m sure that will satisfy my hunger for a radical perspective on Basque nationalism. Anyway, Kurlansky does a good job of weaving in Basque language, culture, dress and cuisine as the history of the people and their land unfolds. Maybe Max will want to try out some of the recipes for us?
I will freely admit that–though I had heard of ETA–I knew nothing about the Basque country or their struggle until I went to Belfast for the first time. Irish republicans express a lot of solidarity with the Basque struggle, and there is a significant Basque immigrant community in Belfast. Each year the August Féile in West Belfast has a Basque day (which I managed to miss the past two years) and am still kicking myself about.
This year’s Basque day is Thursday, and Batasuna’s Pernando Barrena will be unveiling the Basque Solidarity mural that is currently in progress on the Falls Road’s international wall. The mural is a recreation of Picasso’s Guernica, and the project is being led by Danny Devenny and Mark Ervine. This is the sort of participatory project that Eoin O’Broin talked about when he was in Detroit for the AMC –if you were in West Belfast right now you could just walk right up to the artists and help to create the mural. Anyone interested in this should check out Máirtín O’Muilleoir’s blog. Máirtín has been keeping track of the artists’ day-to-day progress, complete with pictures and all. I’ll try to post a picture here when it’s finished.
Here’s an article from the Andersonstown News about the artists that are collaborating on the project:
A new image for city’s future
By Ciarán Barnes
A former IRA prisoner and the son of recently deceased PUP leader, David Ervine, have spoken of their desire to get involved in an ambitious project to redesign Belfast’s murals.
Danny Devenney and Mark Ervine met for the first time last year at a photography exhibition – despite living less than 200 yards away from each other in East Belfast.
Danny is from the Short Strand, while Mark grew up on the Woodstock Road.
Their mutual love of murals and their desire to see a lasting peace between republicans and loyalists brought them together.
Last month the artists were asked to paint a series of murals throughout Liverpool, highlighting the role the Beatles played in shaping the city.
Danny and Mark now want to embark on a similar project in Belfast.
“I knew Mark’s dad, David, but I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him until last year,” explained Danny.
“We were at a photography exhibition in the City Hall focusing on Belfast’s murals. Being two artists we were in a photograph together and our friendship started from there. We hit it off immediately.”
Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds Danny and Mark have a lot in common.
They both share an intense opposition to sectarianism and the crime that blights working class communities in Belfast.
“There are so many issues that Mark and I care passionately about,” explained Danny.
“Take our opposition to sectarianism for instance, and our hatred of drug-dealing and death-driving.
“It is issues like these which we want to tackle through our murals.
“Issues that both republican and loyalist communities are having to face up to and deal with on a regular basis,” he added.
Danny’s most famous work to date is the Bobby Sands mural at the side of the Sinn Féin centre on Sevastapol Street in West Belfast.
Mark recently finished the ‘New Dawn’ PUP mural in East Belfast. He also worked with kids from West Belfast on anti death-driving and friendship murals that adorn walls on Beechmount Avenue.
Both men say they cannot wait to get to work on the Liverpool project, as they are both huge Beatles fans.
“Now at the age of 53 I am getting a chance to paint my heroes,” said Danny.
“This is positive imagery and it’s about bringing a smile to people’s faces. If you turned a corner and saw, for example, a portrait of John Lennon on a wall, it would definitely make you smile.
“The murals have brought thousands of tourists to Belfast. There is no reason why they can’t do the same for Liverpool.”
Mark echoed Danny’s words, saying it is a “privilege” to be asked to paint the Beatles.
He added, “For us it would be an absolute privilege, it would be a big, big honour to paint them.
“This is the chance of a lifetime – it could become an international tourist attraction.
“We hope that by involving others, that would give the people of a particular area ownership of the mural,” added Mark.
At the beginning of the week Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced a £570,000 funding programme to help replace paramilitary-style murals with cultural paintings.
The move was given a cautious welcome by Danny, who wants to see Belfast’s murals turned into an even bigger tourist attraction.
“For years the arts in Belfast have been under-funded, just look at the Féile and the Dubbeljoint theatre group,” he said.
“If the Assembly is serious about promoting Belfast’s murals and transforming the paramilitary ones into cultural murals then we need the full support of local government.
“It is no use just paying lip service to the idea, the funding needs to be there as well.”