Coventry Cathedral, with its long history and ministry of reconciliation, is pleased to host this exhibition featuring the murals of the Bogside Artists in Derry/Londonderry. The Bogside was the epicentre of what came to be known as ‘the Troubles’ – a violent, thirty-year conflict that began with non-sectarian civil rights marches in Derry/Londonderry against discrimination of Catholics in 1968, was followed by years of harrowing sectarian violence, and concluded on Good Friday 1998 with a Peace Agreement in Belfast. All three artists grew up in the Bogside during this turbulent time. Each lost family and friends.
The murals depict key moments from this period as they affected ordinary residents. They are distinctly non-sectarian and contain strong critiques of violence from all sides. The murals serve as commemorative talking points to help people process traumatic experiences as a means to working towards reconciliation.
The exhibition consists of photographs of the murals juxtaposed with historic photographs of the Bogside during the Troubles, taken by local people as well as professional press photographers.
We are hosting this exhibition with awareness that these murals reflect only part of a larger narrative of conflict. The ‘art of conflict’ is always challenging, and the journey of reconciliation is not easy or comfortable. It is often risky and painful. Similarly, the act of remembering is complex, and has many facets.
In the day-to -day work of reconciliation, the meaning of words such as truth, justice, forgiveness and peace are often contested. In a conflict, what one community sees as truth might look very different for the other. Our responses, particularly when we only hear form one community rather than another may, and should, in fact cause us to question our own version of ‘the truth’.
Depicting conflict in this way enables us to hold a space for dialogue; for re-membering; for feelings of hurt and anger to be put on the table; for stories to be told and heard; and for entering into someone else’s story in a way that enables us to make sense of our own. With its worldwide ministry of reconciliation, the cathedral provides a space where such stories can be told and where movements towards reconciliation can be enabled. Our prayer of “Father forgive” acknowledges that we all need forgiveness, not just ‘them’ or ‘the enemy’.
Reconciliation is hard, and it is not fast. Our hope is that engaging with questions of justice, peace, truth and forgiveness through these murals, we are able to hold a respectful space for each other’s voices to be heard, and a more hopeful future imagined.
For more information about the exhibition go to https://bogsideartists.wixsite.com/travellingexhibition