BELFAST: OCT 22-23, 2009
My visit coincided with the grand opening of the new Ulster Museum after a two year renovation. The transformation of the 80 year old building includes a a ground floor exhibition chronicling “the troubles,” a highly significant unveiling in that it placed Northern Ireland’s polarization into a historical context in the wake of a renewed optimism for a lasting reconciliation sparked by HIllary Clinton’s recent visit. In its breath and range of exhibitions, and successful marriage of tradition and innovation along with art/history/science, the museum is just the symbol of integration the city needs for its resurrection.
Coincidentally, the majestic Victorian City Hall had just opened a new cafe and exhibition space devoted to a photographic history of Northern Ireland and a video installation dedicated to both celebrating luminaries and chronicling the history of the “the Troubles.”
The intention was to resurrect the city by bringing its peoples together.
After my tour of the City Hall, it was dusk but I was intent to enter into West Belfast after stumbling on this mural when walking from the hostel earlier in the day.
I walked through a security checkpoint and discovered a new complex with a cafe. I was told that HBO was shooting a series there! Here was the convergence between past and present, Belfast’s transformation.
At dusk, I wandered over the expressway bridge into West Belfast. What a shift of energy! The atmosphere of the forlorn in decayed storefronts and empty streets…
…the twinge of fear in knowing I was a stranger who didn’t belong there.
A group of boys playing ball and asking: “What are you doing here?”
The creepy feeling of being of being watched so close to All Hallows Eve!
Is there an environment more watched by Big Brother than West Belftast?
I doubt it.
But I was intent on seeing the wall murals which were the silent voice of the people…
After I located this one (left), just off a well traveled street, I asked a man on the street where to find more murals and he directed me to Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden.
So, I walked through empty lanes with the attached brick houses so identified with Western Belfast, the houses of the oppressed workers who built the city…
There was a very solemn feeling, yet entering the phoenix gate of the site whose wings were separated by the opening, infused the visitor with the hope of fusion upon closing.
I sat and stared at the plaque (below)…
and monument (right) commemorating the freedom fighters.
…for a long while as dusk became night.
I returned across the bridge under the rising Crescent Moon, I came upon the symbol of Justice, also the Libra symbol of balance and peace. How fabulous to encounter Lady Justice with a branch (the yod) just at the shift of Saturn entering the sign of Libra, in which it is exalted.
A very hopeful sign for the future!!