UV Arts CIC was formed in April 2015 by a collective of graffiti and street artists in Derry/ Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The collective saw an opportunity to challenge the perceptions of space within communities in a post-Troubles segregated Northern Ireland, using graffiti and tagging as a tool to cross the political divide against a backdrop of traditional political murals.

Bottom line

The work of UV Arts demonstrates that art brings people together and has the power to transcend division and serve as a peace building tool.

Why it matters?

It demonstrates how art can transcend divisions by creating alternative communities and experiences for young people.

  • Graffiti breaks down barriers through the creation of identities and communities that are not tied up with a history of division and violence. As a non traditional art form, graffiti and graffiti artists tend to have a shared set of practices and behaviour (tagging, scouting out new locations to paint) – so a sense of community is formed somewhat naturally.
  • The great power of art is that it allows people to explore and utilise their imaginations. This imaginative aspect can be harnessed as a peacebuilding tool, helping to picture and depict a potential future community that has passed through a period of unrest and violence.

Between the lines

A strong tradition of mural painting exists in Northern Ireland, but it is one that is tied up closely with the Troubles. Images are ones of weapons, men in balaclavas, sectarian violence and threats. Although there is an argument to suggest that these images are antiquated and do not fairly represent Northern Ireland in 2018, the reality is that these legacies and traditions of violence do persist. The frequency of these images results in a normalisation of their content and a gradual acceptance.

By repurposing the idea and tradition of mural painting in Northern Ireland, UV Arts are creating an alternative narrative to the young that has existed since The Troubles, through the use of images of peace and by using art to bridge community divisions.

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