Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monday richness

Wow. It has been a big day! I knew that even before I arrived, since it was the day that executive power of police and justice affairs of NI was handed over from London to Belfast. Shortly after midnight, a car bomb exploded not far from the city, but luckily no one was killed. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and after Eleanor and I both got a solid night of sleep and morning of work, she took me for a drive through the city.

[The depression and suicide rates here are high, not surprising after so much war.] It was amazing. She is incredibly generous with her time and knowledge, and she knows SO MUCH about so much. She pointed out interface areas, Loyalist areas, Nationalist areas, murals, cafes, the Asian market, the street to eat good food, the cool artist studios, the area that the Flax housing used to be in, police stations that used to be military barracks, black cabs, surveillance cameras, empty lots and highways and walls used to separate communities, painted curbs, flags, and symbols galore.

She had wanted to take me to a graveyard for Republicans but we got very lost for a while and actually ended up visiting two others before we finally found the right one. It was a good adventure that even took us to Lisburn (a city SW of Belfast) momentarily, and up high for a view. I learned intense things about history here, the present situation, and also about herself.

It was sooooo much to take in but incredibly rich and valuable. I had asked her about etiquette when it came to Fiona in the studio telling me that I was welcome to knock on her door up the street any time, and Eleanor said that it was fine to call on neighbors; that is being a proper neighbor (in the US, I am used to people just saying, "let's hang out," but with no intention of doing so). So I had texted Fiona to say hello and she ended up coming by around 8pm for tea.

That was another fabulous talk, and we talked about this neighborhood, being outsiders, racism and how it is here as opposed to the south (as in Ireland), New York (she had done a residency in the city in the summer), real estate, gentrification, travel, and then the nightmare of border control. I told her about my experience and since she runs another non-profit arts org that has an international residency program, she shared their experiences and challenges. To make me feel better about my crossing, she told me a dreadful story about her friends, a married couple, who were separated for 7 mos b/c of crazy red tape. One of them actually got sent right back and was not allowed to enter the US. So at least I am here, right?

It was great to have such good quality time with both artists. I'm glad that they will be around. Tomorrow an English artist arrives for a few days. And I will finally get back to the studio!

1 comment:

Velma Bolyard said...

richness indeed! now, get some sleep!