ICONIC Belfast street artists Friz (Marian Noone) and EMIC (Eoin McGinn) arrive in Cali, Colombia to take part in an international street art festival.
The duo are there for a 10-day programme facilitated by the British Council – and alongside producing three pieces of street art around the theme of peace, will deliver talks and workshops on the Belfast urban arts scene and its transformation over the last 20 years.
They will be joined at Graficalia Street Arts Festival by Urban Arts Curator Adam Turkington – who will share his own experiences of running Hit the North – the largest street art festival across Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Eoin, who currently works mostly with community groups, is looking forward to delivering workshops with young people from Cali’s most affected neighbourhoods.
Speaking ahead of the festival, he said: “This is the furthest we’ve been with our street art and I think we’re all going in to this with no expectations – I’m personally just looking forward to the experience and will enjoy being in a new culture.
“I’m interested in seeing the other artists and how Cali differs to Belfast – Colombian street artists tend to have a very different style and it’s a lot more colourful – but there seems to be a lot of talent coming out of there right now.”
As part of their design brief, both Marian and Eoin were asked to come up with something that reflected ‘non-violence’ with an anti-gun/peace theme.
Speaking about her piece, Marian said: “I was asked to come up with something from the female perspective, so after some research, I discovered that women FARC members weren’t allowed to get pregnant, with pregnancy rates surging after the war. This led me to a creationist story from the ancient cultures of the region – and my design is a spin-off on that.”
Running from 27 August – September 2 2018 Graficalia Street Arts Festival was established last year as a way for the local authorities to minimise youth violence – with the aim of showcasing the role of the arts in peacebuilding. While there, Adam who currently conducts two-hour street walking tours in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter through Seedhead Arts wants to get across the value of street art, by looking at Northern Ireland and its changing history.
He said: “I want to explain the ideology behind a street art festival –and how you can make people in a city feel ownership over that artwork. Coming from Belfast where murals pre- date the birth of street art and where paramilitary organisations previously controlled the narrative of city walls – you can see how the writing on walls has always been political – and a way for people to express feeling unrepresented, frustrated or like their voice isn’t being heard. When suddenly that wall is marked as just a pretty picture and is not in fact political, it becomes quite radical, and people take notice.”
Following Graficalia, Adam will bring a taste of Cali to Belfast at this year’s Hit the North Festival in September.
He said: “We’re aiming to build on the Cali/Belfast connection and have invited well-renown Colombian street artist Sancho to Hit the North through the British Council. He’s a huge talent and we’re excited to see what he can do on a Belfast canvas.”
The artists were invited to Cali following conversations at British Council Northern Ireland’s International Peace and Beyond conference in April, which marked the anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – with a focus on countries including South Africa, Lebanon, the Western Balkans and Colombia.
Speaking about the project was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland.
He said: “The British Council has been making connections between Northern Ireland and Colombia over the past three years especially in the arts. Belfast and Cali share many parallels – with both working to address political instability after years of conflict – and through projects such as this we can share best practice and find new ways to overcome some of our biggest hurdles.
“This project supports our Global Cities Strategy, which aims to connect UK cities with key cities from across the world, and we hope it leads to deeper connections between Cali and Belfast.”
To find out more about Hit the North Festival visit: http://www.seedheadarts.com/hit-the-north/
The British Council is the UK’s leading cultural relations body. For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI.