© By André Stitt

In May 2000 I produced a performance ‘akshun’ in Belfast entitled Conviction. The akshun took the form of crawling on my hands and knees from my childhood home in Donegall Pass in South Belfast to the Duke of York pub on the other side of the city. My head was covered in tar and feathers. An image from my youth when I saw people tarred and feathered and tied to lampposts as a punishment.

In Conviction I wanted to come to terms with Belfast as an environment that incorporated a personal psycho-geographical history with a symbolic ‘ritual’ journey that had a correlation to the lives lived and lost in the areas I crawled through. I negotiated divided territory on hands and knees in a ritual act of penance. The work for me became a cathartic act of transformation, redemption and healing. The performance activity incorporated elements of ritual relative to Catholic culture – acts of penance – and to incidents I witnessed in my own Protestant culture – ‘tarring and feathering’ as an act of public punishment and humiliation.

The work was also about my father, who drank in the Duke of York pub. In 1968, when I was ten years of age, I was in the pub with my father when some of his friends from the Belfast Newsletter showed me photos they had just received from their office across the street. These were photos of Tommy Smith and John Carlos, the two African-American athletes who had given a black power salute at the Mexico Olympic games. It was a profound moment and I suspect the photo had a cathartic effect on me at the time because I was aware that for some inexplicable reason I had been changed. I felt it physically, perceptually, emotionally and intellectually. In the moment of receiving the image and by the act of physically holding the photograph I felt a shock of recognition and meaning concerning political and cultural engagement. Thereafter, I became increasingly aware of the nature and possibilities of public protest as performance and spectacle. The moment was transformative and I would identify it as a cathartic experience.

The same year, 1968, was also when I became aware of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, and a year I associate with the beginnings of the Troubles. During Conviction’s journey across the city I carried photos of the athletes and of my father and his friends, now all dead. The framed photos were hung in the Duke of York pub at the end of the ‘akshun’.

Artwork Copyright: STITT Akshun Archive

Further Infomation






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STITT Akshun Archive, Cardiff