Shortly after the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the artist Raymond Watson managed to persuade the Northern Irish political leaders involved in negotiating the Agreement (some of whom are now deceased) to allow him to take a cast of their hands, which he later cast in bronze to create a unique sculpture entitled Hands of History.
Raymond‘s Hands of History is an important, significant and truly unique artwork that captures a momentous and historic event in Irish history.
For the twentieth anniversary of Good Friday, Raymond has created new art work and hand casts. This recent work is accompanied by a re-enactment of the original Good Friday exhibition. The original hands are shown alongside additional new Hands of those political and international figures who have been instrumental in helping to build the peace over the last twenty years.
Hands of History +20
A New Series of artworks marking the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement
By Raymond Watson
Raymond Watson with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The bronze hands for the original Good Friday sculpture and the + 20 new hands are mounted on bases cut from Mourne Granite; the same material that forms the steps to Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast. The use of a granite stone reflects the fact that in ancient times there was a sense of immense power and permanency about a large rough shaped rock. In mythology, and in the contemporary era, people, chieftains and monarchs touched or sat on a stone to pledge a better future.
This centrepiece will be accompanied by other sculptures, paintings, prints and three installations reflecting the search for peace and its wider context over the last twenty years.
“Keys” – An Audio Installation
This installation constricts the audience into a small space that contains the actual keys that were used in the running of Crumlin Road jail. The artistic aim of this work is to examine the notion of imprisonment and freedom, both physically and culturally, a theme which is a growing global phenomenon. The work combines actual historical artifacts with contemporary art pieces encouraging the audience to examine the ideas around the themes of imprisonment/confinement and freedom/release.
‘Keys’ was recorded at Start Together Studios, Belfast
The three new installations are:
“Grappling Hook” – A Video Installation
The artistic aim is to create a thought-provoking artwork that will engage the audience in the political and communal struggles for peace in Northern Ireland and present these issues to a national and international audience.
The Grappling Hook installation makes use of an original grappling hook that was made illegally by prisoners during the Internment period of the early 1970s. The installation shows the hook and an attached rope being thrown over the top of the Belfast Peace Wall in an effort to escape from the ideological prison of one political culture. On the other side, however, is another ideological cultural prison, that also compels the need to escape. This will be repeated several times, drawing attention to the similar ‘prisons’ of partisan belief systems that lie on both sides of the wall.
Grappling Hook was produced by Digital Arts Studios (Belfast) in association with the Creative Workers Co-Op
A Memoir - 'Unlocking'
A Memoir - 'Unlocking', is a narrated short story written by Raymond Watson. The narration is accompanied by close up detail photographs of the Crumlin Road Keys and Identification Tags. Through this story the artist reinterprets his account of returning to the closed prison, his encounter with the keys and his consequent reflections on the past and the present.
‘A Memoir - Unlocking’ was recorded at Start Together Studios, Belfast
A major selection of these works was shown at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, hosted by the Institute of Irish Studies (University of Liverpool), during March and April 2018.
The exhibition was sponsored by the Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Institute of Irish Studies (University of Liverpool) and by Patrick Gaul.
You can learn more about Raymond and this project at: http://thehandsofhistory.com/
You can find out more about The Institute of Irish Studies "Agreement: People's Process" project and their research at:
A selection of 4 hands and the Grappling Hook film were also shown as part of the British Council’s “Peace and Beyond” conference, which was held in Belfast in April 2018 to mark 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
70 Bloomfield Avenue, Belfast, BT5 5AE
Gallery Opening Times
Tue - Fri: 11am to 6pm
Sat: Midday to 5pm
077 263 263 90 (Ann)
079 053 395 69 (Ken)
Sign up to the ArtisAnn Email Newsletter for updates about this project and to receive invites to previews and special events at the ArtisAnn Gallery
Filming at the Pace Wall in Belfast
Hands cast for original Good Friday Agreement sculpture in 2000/1 include those of:
Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin
Malachi Curran, Leader of the Labour Party of Northern Ireland
David Ervine, Leader of the Progressive Unionist Party
John Hume, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Gary McMichael, Leader of the Ulster Democratic Party
Monica McWilliams, Co-Founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition
Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (UK Government)
Seán Neeson, Leader of the Alliance Party
David Trimble, First Minister of the NI Assembly and Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Now, the artist is casting the hands of 20 additional politicians and key people involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, including:
Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Irish Government and Leader of Fianna Fáil
John Alderdice, Speaker of NI Assembly and Leader of the Alliance Party
David Andrews, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Irish Government
Tony Blair, Prime Minister of UK Government
Rev Harold Good, Member of Decommissioning Body
Gerry Kelly, Member of the NI Assembly and Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Policing and Justice
Naomi Long, Leader of the Alliance Party
Seamus Mallon, Deputy First Minister of NI Assembly and Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Bernie McGuinness, Widow of Deputy First Minister of the NI Assembly and Leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness
Malcolm McKibbin, Head of NI Civil Service
Sen. George Mitchell, US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland and Chair of NI Peace Negotiations
Mike Nesbitt, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Liz O’Donnell, Minister of State for Department of Foreign Affairs of the Irish Government
Ian Paisley Junior, Member of UK Parliament and son of Reverend Ian Paisley
Chris Patten, Chair of Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland
Peter Robinson, First Minister of NI Assembly and Leader of Democratic Unionist Party