Malcolm X in North Belfast (APRN)

D OC donaloc at peterquinn.com
Tue Aug 27 05:13:05 MDT 2002


Mike Alewitz of the American based Labour Art and Mural Project has
travelled the world bringing his street paintings of working class issues to
countries as diverse as Iraq and Germany. Inspired by the images of Holy
Cross, this summer Mike came to North Belfast to share his visual message of
international solidarity and struggle with the people of Ardoyne.

As a political muralist Mike has a formidable reputation both within the USA
and internationally. His most famous work, the Pathfinder mural in New York,
reproduced on numerous posters and book covers, has become an image
instantly recognisable in many countries throughout the world.

Denied expression in most mainstream mediums, Mike sees mural art as an
important mechanism through which working people can address political and
economic marginalisation.

"It's working people talking to the world," says Mike. The main focus of
Mike's art has been the depiction of labour issues and union struggles but
for North Belfast he chose Malcolm X as his theme for the mural.

"Malcolm X was the greatest voice of Black nationalism," says Mike, "but he
was also an internationalist. He understood the interconnection between
nationalism and internationalism. I hope that the imagery will encourage
people to read Malcolm X not just as an American leader but as a World
leader."

But Mike has already been pleasantly surprised by how many ordinary people
in North Belfast recognise the image. "People here already know who Malcolm
X is," says Mike, "I guess that's a reflection of the level of
politicisation within these communities."

The mural also includes images of Holy Cross and Little Rock. "Television
footage of the children of Holy Cross being attacked as they made their way
to school immediately reminded me of the image of children being confronted
by an angry mob in Arkansaw," says Mike.

US President George Bush and British PM Tony Blair are also included in the
mural as a couple of poodles. "I would like to take the opportunity to
denounce the criminal activities of the US and Israeli government against
the people of Palestine," says Mike.

Despite being sympathetic to the struggle for freedom and justice in the
north of Ireland, this is the first time Mike has actually visited here to
witness the ongoing problems of ordinary communities like Ardoyne.

"I didn't realise the level of segregation and victimisation," says Mike,
"or the ongoing level of violence being endured by people within this
community."

Mike Alewitz is travelling home from Belfast this week but his mural will
ensure that while he may have gone, he will not be forgotten. And he
promises to visit again.


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