A GUIDE TO CATEGORIES
Images on the blog are labelled with what WordPress calls ‘categories’. You are able to quickly search by category using the drop-down menu in the left-hand side-bar. Furthermore, category words appear at the bottom of each post. The categories themselves are (invisibly) grouped into the following larger categories:
On the blog, a mural can be political art or cultural art or community art or social art or street art – any painting or spraying on a wall or other surface. (However, the words “street art” are used in the text of posts featuring street art and a search using the term “street art” will yield good results.) The category graffiti/writing indicates a letting without images (graffiti or wild-style writing, though the latter blurs into graffiti art, since it sometimes involves figures alongside the stylistic lettering).
When a picture or words are painted or printed on a surface that is itself then affixed to a wall or otherwise displayed in the street, we use banner/tarp, board, poster/paste-up/sticker. All of these can be prepared indoors and then mounted in a single session of work, thus avoiding the rainy Irish weather. Since the 2000s, boards have increasinly become printed (after the artwork has been designed on a computer) rather than painted (or sprayed) by hand. The rear of Free Derry Corner provides an excellent sample of boards over a long period of time; after 2005 they are generally all printed, though there are notable exceptions. (Bill Rolston uses display for printed boards.)
Stencils have also been used to speed up the production of painted works, whether on walls or on boards. There is a category stencil – as originally conceived, it was to be applied to words-only or simple picture stencilling (e.g. No Crown Forces), in an attempt to denote the messaging produced by anti-Agreement republicans, but it became muddied with stencilling done by all artists, especially street artists.
Other types include building/structure, glass, metalwork, mosaic, plaque, sculpture, (memorial) stone.
(In the Visual Histories, where we are concerned to track the history and development of different forms of public painting, a more restrictive use of mural is employed. Whereas in most of the world, any painting on a wall is a mural and most murals are community art or personal art (street art), in Northern Ireland there is a prior history of muraling where mural means a political mural – a paramilitary or cultural mural of a sectarian nature – as opposed to a community mural, mural on a social issue, or street art.)
Most images that are not from the city centre is labeled as being either PUL (Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist) or CNR (Catholic-Nationalist-Republican), regardless of theme. The labels serve to indicate the dominant community in which the mural or graffiti was/is to be found.
Belfast posts are further labeled as north Belfast, east Belfast, south Belfast or west Belfast. The borders between these quadrants are, clockwise from the north-east, the lough, the river Lagan, the M-2, Crumlin Rd. (There is also city centre.)
Castlereagh is included in east Belfast; Dundonald (which includes Tullycarnet and Ballybeen) is not. Dunmurry is included in Lisburn/Dunmurry but CNR murals in Twinbrook and Colin are often included in west Belfast.
(Almost) every image’s location is pin-pointed on the map; the map also shows many of the so-called “peace” lines in Belfast.
The group that the mural is about (which is not necessarily the group that sponsored the mural), including most commonly IRA, INLA, UVF, UDA, Sinn Féin, RUC/PSNI, 36th (Ulster) Division, Orange Order, and others.
There are a number of categories related to Physical Force: assault rifle, barbed wire, bullets – rubber or plastic, funeral volley/graveside mourner, hood/mask/balaclava, lark, POWs, RPG.
National Flags And Symbols
CNR: tricolour, tricolours, shamrock, four provinces
PUL: union jack, four nations.
The flags of Éire (the Tricolour) and Britain (the Union Flag) are prominent, alongside the Northern Irish flag (Ulster Banner) and St Andrew’s Saltire. (The Northern Irish flag uses the red hand on a white background, while the Ulster flag uses the red hand on a yellow background.)
Republican work also makes use of the shields of other provinces: Leinster, Munster and Connacht. Loyalist work sometimes makes reference to the four “home” nations – Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, represented by their flags or flowers (thistle, shamrock, rose, daffodil, respectively).
Each side also has a lily: Easter lily for republicans and (occasionally) Orange lily for loyalists.
Outlines of the island of Ireland and of Northern Ireland separated from the Republic Of Ireland are used in CNR and PUL murals, respectively.
The used of Irish (Gaeilge/Gaelic) indicates a CNR mural, with the exception of the motto of the (loyalist) Red Hand Commando.
Various historical events and figures are referenced.
CNR: Cú Chulainn (who also appears in some PUL murals), 1798/pike, the Great Hunger, Connolly, Easter Rising, Bloody Sunday, H-Block, hunger strike, (also barbed wire, blanket, and lark for political prisoners), Bobby Sands,
PUL: King Billy, Siege Of Derry, (Sir Edward) Carson, the Ulster covenant, industry/H&W, WWI.
frame, breaks frame, breaks plane: Murals, especially republican murals, sometimes have a (painted) frame or border. This frame is often celtic knot-work and includes the flags/shields of the four provinces. Sometimes portraits of people killed are placed in/over the frame; occasionally the content in the main panel breaks out into the frame; very occasionally a mural is extended beyond the natural frame of the wall by an extension in some other material (one | two). Occasionally a three-dimensional object will be placed on or near the mural, perhaps a plaque on a wedge of wood or a bouquet of flowers.
sponsored, signature: Older CNR murals were unsigned; lately signatures or marks of some kind are occasionally appearing, perhaps due in part to the change in genre from political subjects to cultural ones and sponsorship by state agencies rather than local communities only. Street art is almost always signed.
Also: windows in walls because not every mural gets an uninterrupted surface.
(See ‘What is a mural?‘ for some discussion of the changing subject matter of murals.)
international: Many CNR murals are international in theme, drawing parallels between the republican struggle and other oppressed peoples. Very occasionally, a PUL mural will make reference to Israel. There is a separate Visual History page on International Solidarity.
women: This label means that the mural honours women, whether as victims or activists or in some other way. There is a separate Visual History page on women in murals and muraling.