Saturday, 23 June 2007

Painting a new image of NI

Maggie Taggart: BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent
Loyalist and republican murals have become tourist attractions in Northern Ireland and their artists have been invited to decorate a gable wall in Washington for the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival.

However, they will not be painting hooded gunmen or hunger strikers.

Instead, a more positive view will be held up to the a million visitors expected to wander down the Washingtom Mall over the next two weeks.

East Belfast artists will be painting industrial scenes and Tom Kelly of Bogside Murals will be recreating one with coloured squares and a dove of peace already on a gable wall in Londonderry.

One hundred and sixty creative people have been chosen by the Smithsonian Folk life festival to represent Northern Ireland.

This has been an annual event for the last 40 years and each year the museum's group takes over Washington's central Mall for two weeks for a celebration of culture.

Perhaps symbolically, a house with two gable walls will be built on the Mall, with the east Belfast artists on one side and the Bogside ones on the other

The only other region of the UK ever to be invited before was Scotland in 2003.

The idea is to portray a positive image of Northern Ireland, so that's why the old style of paramilitary mural is out of favour.

In east Belfast they are being painted over and replaced with uncontentious pictures.