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Women dispelling myths and legends in Belfast through art


Participants of the ‘Myths and Legends’ art course showcasing their final pieces
Participants of the ‘Myths and Legends’ art course showcasing their final pieces

The ‘’Myth and Legends’’ art course by the Shankill Women’s Centre encouraged women to explore and connect with the myths and legends of Northern Ireland, as well as their own lives.


Inspired by the emotive stories of women in the ‘Pieces of the Past’ archival project, a collection of oral histories through the Troubles, the participants created their own paintings to tell their stories.


Fine-Art graduate Aoife Burns (25), who works in Flax Studios in the Emerging Artist Programme, facilitated the 8-week course for the Shankill Women’s Centre to promote storytelling through art to participants. Aoife says:


‘’Through reading other people’s stories, they were able to tell their own story in a mural. It was about what they wanted to tell and what their legend was, and what they were leaving behind. It got them to look on themselves. I think women sometimes don’t give themselves enough credit, and they really wanted to take that time to tell their own stories.’’


Throughout the course, the participants picked different elements of murals to explore such as the different landscapes and nature, patterns, figures, language and slang, song lyrics and more. By the end of the course, the participants created their final murals that reflected their own versions of Belfast and their stories.


In reflection of the course, one participant said:


‘’The stories read in the first week of our class helped me with their visions of hope and optimism in times of fear and uncertainty. It shows the strength of the human spirit, and I included a portrait of my great grandmother at the centre of the piece as she was one of the strongest women I know.’’


Joan Mercer, Project Manager for the art course says:


‘’The course was incredibly empowering for the women in the Centre. It was an opportunity for women of all ages and all areas to come together to connect through art and take time out to focus on themselves. We received a lot of positive feedback from the participants, and heard a lot of laughter from the group. As the weeks went by, the group really blended and by our celebration night they we’re catching up like old friends.’’


In addition to the participants paintings, Aoife created a final piece ‘She just..’ using household paint which had elements from every participant’s mural and portrayed what a woman looks like living in Northern Ireland. Aoife said: ‘’I knew I wanted a bit of each of woman in the final painting. It was their work that inspired me essentially’’.

Artist and facilitator Aoife Burns showcasing her final piece ‘She just…’ for the Shankill Women’s Centre
Artist and facilitator Aoife Burns showcasing her final piece ‘She just…’ for the Shankill Women’s Centre

Artist and facilitator Aoife Burns showcasing her final piece ‘She just…’ for the Shankill Women’s Centre


The hummingbird was also incorporated into the piece, which is symbolic for the Shankill Women’s Centre. ‘The Hummingbird’ was the original location of the Centre when it opened in 1987 and has remained a symbol of women empowerment since. ‘She just…’ will be displayed in the new Shankill Women’s Centre in Lanark Way, which is currently in construction, estimated opening date of Spring 2024.


The ‘Myths and Legends’ art course was run as part of our ‘Women in Transition’ project, funded by the Central Good Relations fund by the Executive Office.

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