A community approach to graffiti in the Bogside has seen a number of young people turn their hands to a more positive form of art while showing their solidarity with the people of Gaza.
Young people from the Youth First group worked under the guidance of local artist Declan McLaughlin on the mural which is currently on display at Free Derry Corner. Clare Maguire, Youth First Project Co ordinator says it’s a fantastic achievement for the young people from the area who were involved.
“The idea was really born out of young people spray painting on gable walls around the area. They were trying to show their support for the people of Gaza but some of the language used wasn’t taking into account the other people in the area so what we tried to do was channel that energy and sentiment into a major piece of artwork and that’s where the mural came from.
“The young people involved are all between the ages of 12 and 16 and they’re highly politicised. They were fully aware of the dynamics of the struggle in Gaza and the similarity between there and here.
“They have real empathy for the people of Gaza and had attended local rallies and they wanted to get their feelings across in the mural.”
Artist Declan McLaughlin said the teenagers deserved full credit for their commitment to the project.
“Really, they put in all the hard work and they should get full recognition for that. Their awareness had increased again after the latest trouble in Gaza and they wanted to express that in some way here in their local community so we suggested doing that in a positive way. They put so much work into the mural and it’s something they can really be proud of.
“A lot of the time, young people don’t get the recognition they deserve and we’re delighted that this piece of work is in such a prominent position.”
Criomthann O’Kane, one of the teenagers involved, says he’s proud of the finished result.
“My brother told me about what was going on in Gaza and I wanted to do something that would show what we thought about it. The stories he told me stayed with me. We’re all proud of the mural and the fact that we can say it was something we did ourselves. There’s plenty of space around here for other artwork and the next thing we’re hoping to work on is something to mark the 125th anniversary of Celtic.”
Colm Barton, from the Triax Neighbourhood Management team who were heavily involved in the project said:
“This is an example of what can be achieved when we work together with the young people. Most importantly, at the end of this, as well as having a fantastic piece of art we’ve noticed a decline in graffiti generally in the area.
“This gives our young people something to be proud of and it’s something we should be celebrating because it’s a positive contribution to the community they all live in.”