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Title - 'The Death of Innocence'
(Annette McGavigan Mural)
Medium - Emulsions and Acrylics
Size - 26ft x 28ft

The painting depicts 14-year old Annette McGavigan allegedly caught in cross-fire between IRA and British Army on 7 September 1971. She was the 100th victim of 'the Troubles'. Annette was gathering coloured stones for a school art project at the time.

Our intention for this particular gable wall that faces directly onto the city walls was to do a painting of Operation Motorman which was one of the most virulent incursions by the British Army into the Bogside in 1972. However, given the political situation during 1999 we felt that such an image would be irresponsible. We decided that something more supportive of the peace process that was then in a delicate state would be appropriate. As the issue of disarmament was one of the stumbling blocks to an agreement to form a government we decided we would incorporate this aspect into the work. Our thinking was that all guns are pernicious. Guns exist as a testament to the fact that the basic rule of democracy - "Live and Let Live" - is not how the world operates.

In these preparatory skeches the aim was to fit the figure of Annette into a context that would define her background and fate. We were anxious to avoid the obvious and banal. This can be seen from our initial consideration to include soldiers in the image. An environment of fire and destruction finally resolved itself to an almost abstract design that depicts the aftermath of an explosion. Thus the image is removed out of the realms of propaganda and into the realm of art and the language of art without losing any of its human content or social contingency.

We wanted the figure to stand out boldly from the background. We also wanted her innocence to radiate against the chaos of the world she was born into. So, we effectively made a shrine for her from the debris resulting from a bomb explosion. We then found a girl to adopt the pose that would define that innocence. Our challenge was - "How do you take such a heart-rending event as the brutal death of a young girl and make it the vehicle of a plea for peace and sanity?"

The gun which takes up the entire length of the left-hand side of the wall was painted upside down. Like a monstrous serpent it has been defanged; it points nowhere but to the ground and yet is closely enough associated with the main figure as to make the connection all the more moving by being subtle. The work is literary in that sense. That's why we gave it the title it has because the death of this little girl let us know in no uncertain way that in the high places where power is wielded nobody's life amounts to much.

There is also a crucifix in the upper right-hand corner of the mural, this alludes to the resurrection as does the butterfly. The butterfly in fact is left unfinished, purposely so, as it seemed more child-like to us like that. More pertinently perhaps, the peace process had no guarantee it would succeed at that time and our feelings were far from optimistic. The colour of the butterfly is to suggest peace and wisdom. One other interesting thing in this painting is that it was the first time we ever mixed black into our colours for the background. We realised we needed a tonal contrast that would lift the figure out of the wall and this suggested itself to us as the best way to do it.

(See also the photographs of The Bogside Artists working on the mural together with an animated image.)

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