Derry's Bogside Artists have just returned from Shenzhen in China where they painted a special mural for the Dafen Museum.
Artists from all over the world were invited to Shenzhen to painting murals on the walls of the museum situated in Dafen Village, a place given over entirely to the art of painting and the only place of its kind in the world.
Representing Ireland at the event, the Bogside Artists created a mural depicting the transition of old China to a new modern China. The piece won the praise of organisers, fellow artists and public alike and the trio have already been invited to return to Shenzhen in the future.
The artists were then given the privilege of speaking on behalf of all the international artists at the closing ceremony.
Speaking to the 'Journal' upon their return home, Bogside Artist Tom Kelly described the trip to China as a "wonderful experience".
"The trip was a tremendous success all round. We have had a fantastic time and were very well received. We created a mural that was meaningful and which spoke to many, and to some of them profoundly.
"Our thirty odd years of conflict here in the North of Ireland gives us the right to stand by what we believe to be important. So, we wrote the words 'Freedom and Art' on our mural for the museum and are in profound awe of the brave souls of Shenzhen who took a risk by allowing us to do so."
"It was a wonderful experience and the trip was all part of China expo, so it was a great honour for the Bogside Artists to be invited," Tom said.
"We were especially honoured when the organising committee asked us to give the closing speech of the exhibitions."
During his speech for the exhibition's closing ceremony, Tom Kelly told his audience: "I am sure we speak for all the artists involved when we say that this project at Dafen has pioneered a form of art festival that may well have set a standard for the rest of the world. It gives us humble painters the respect and regard we find so scarce in the West. That says a great deal for China, her culture, her people and her profound awareness of being human beings first and Chinese second. That is how it should be elsewhere in the world."
While they were there, the work of the Bogside Artists was also highlighted on China's main TV channel, China TV.
"China TV showed up to do a piece on the mural event and again, we were asked to conduct the interview," Tom revealed.
"Considering there is around 1.6 billion people in China, this was incredible exposure not just for us, but for Derry itself.
"We basically got the chance to tell others about Derry and the success of our murals and the economic benefits that our murals bring to the city."
Tom is full of praise for the artistic community in Shenzhen and says the new collection of murals have already become a major attraction.
"The level of artistic talent in Dafen village simply amazed us. Shenzhen is one of China's experimental cities and has grown to become an art-based city. Every other shop is an art gallery and the village itself is 100% filled with creative people. It really is a wonderful place to visit," he added.