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Conflict and Social Justice are topical discussions at Imagine! Festival

The Open University in Ireland organised two fully booked events at the Imagine! Festival of Politics and Ideas in Belfast in March.

‘Challenging the post-conflict narrative' saw local academic Philip O’Sullivan host a panel discussion exploring the narratives around conflict from the perspectives of Loyalist and Republican ex-political prisoners, a community activist and peacebuilder.

‘Creating Justice: Law, Art, and Activism’ was produced by the OU Law School and brought together a range of local artists who used their art in areas of activism around justice.

Creating Justice: Law, Art, and Activism

Some may see law and art as two separate fields, but there is a complex and continuous relationship between the two. This event sought to explore the link between law and art by engaging with the work of various artists and activists to explore how we can create a sense of justice through art.

During this event, participants reflected on issues surrounding justice and activism through art. The event involved participatory audience exercises, a series of talks by artists and activists, and an art exhibition. Participants were guided through a journey of critical reflection, where it was hoped participants would be encouraged in a newly found appreciation of diverse meanings of justice, and an understanding of the power of art activism in creating justice.

Academic Dr Sophie Doherty (PhD, FHEA) Lecturer in Law at The Open University, who is researching law and art, justice, feminism, borders, and sexual violence took part in the festival for the first time this year. 

Artists included

Raymond Watson is a visual artist from Belfast, now living in Cushendall. Raymond’s work is influenced by many contemporary issues at home and abroad. Raymond has worked on many international art projects, using a creative and eclectic mix of material that spans the use of traditional art to installations and atmospheric soundscapes. A major goal throughout his work is to raise awareness of peace building and enhance community relations in deprived or troubled societies.

Nuala Convery (Wee Nuls) is a Belfast-based artist working in a variety of mediums including digital illustration, street art / graffiti, and printmaking. Her work features abstract contemporary figurative work and explores the narratives of beauty standards, feminism, mythology, and sexual expression. For International Women’s Day Nuala created an artwork to support the Menstruation Matters Campaign, advocating to eradicate period poverty and to destigmatize menstruation, but her artwork was defaced and covered in black paint. This has only highlighted the significance of the issue. One of her signature pieces is a collaborative piece which can be seen outside the Sunflower Bar in Belfast.

Ruth Maxwell is an activist who campaigns on socio-legal issues in Ireland. She is a strong advocate for the better treatment of victim-survivors of violence both inside and outside of the criminal justice process. Drawing on her own experience of violence, and the mistreatment of those who have experienced sexual violence, Ruth created the Not Consent exhibition, which was exhibited throughout Ireland.

Esther Mogada is a Belfast based storyteller, filmmaker & video content creator. Her work focuses on racism, discrimination, self-love, and acceptance. Esther runs a video production company, ‘Creating A Space’, specialising in short-led video content for creative businesses. For the past year she has been working on a series of short documentaries centred around what people of colour go through in Northern Ireland. Her most recent project is called ‘How They See Us’ which dives into 10 people’s lives to interview them about how they navigate their cultural identity, self-acceptance and how they view themselves in society.