We all know about the troubles, or think we do. Everyone the world over has some sort of opinion of how the troubles started or who was at fault. As someone who was born in the midst of the chaos, this particular reviewer, when asked about the troubles always explains it as different versions of the same truth. That is to say that each person who lived through the troubles will have experienced the events from a certain point of view and that particular point of view isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s simply the version that that particular person has come to think of as the truth given their own unique set of circumstances. That is not to say that everyone doesn’t come with their own particular set of prejudices but it is up to the interested and impartial observer to listen to each point of view and make up their own mind. Among those observers, who often put themselves in harm’s way in order that you the public were informed of events, were the journalists and reporters who reported on the numerous tragic events so for this to happen. Reporting the Troubles: Journalists tell their stories of the Northern Ireland conflict, does exactly what it says on the tin so to speak. With participation of well known international journalists such as Kate Adie, Martin Bell, Robert Fisk along with lesser known hacks who lived among the people about whom they reported. Each one has their own perspective, their own memories of a particular person or incident which occured during the over thirty years of violence. Each one is heartfelt and sincere and tries to bring attention to some of the many victims of the troubles, it also does what every journalist is often told not to do – it makes things personal. The strength of the book is as has been mentioned already, in the wide variety of reporters who have been asked to contribute. Perhaps where the book falls down is in a way in which the reporters themselves would critique their own work, it highlights one particular incident over another. Another point worth making is that once you read about an incident you have yet to come across you are fairly certain that the next is linked in some way, there isn’t enough of a variety. With that said it is indeed hard to remember every terrible incident, to pick one victim over another. What the book does do well is explore the human, private side of the reporters involved. It allows them to open up to an audience like perhaps not permitted at the time about the events and personalities involved. As someone who grew up during the troubles it is perhaps difficult to look at these events totally objectively, however at times the perspective of the intervening years and unawareness of some events certainly helps. A book best for those with a distant perspective on events perhaps
It’s hard to picture for those who did not live through it what the troubles were like, the shootings, the bombings, the lost of a loved one. In Silent Testimony by Colin Davidson comes a different way of telling the story. Not a dramatic blockbuster film, or a thought-provoking play or a touristic re-telling of the story to entertain those with a morbid fascination with troubles sites.
These are the images of the people who have suffered as good as first hand. For although they might not have been the direct victims themselves they’re as good as. They’re as good as because they’re the ones left behind, the ones left wondering why it happened; why my loved one? Why me? What Davidson manages to do is capture on canvas with paints and a palet knife the suffering of a generation. The texture of the flesh in Colin Davidson’s portraits. These are people who have lived and who have suffered. The palet knife traces its way through the canvas, leaving it’s mark on the subject; just as the event associated with each person has left its mark on their lives. The eyes of each subject stare back at you with all the hurt, all the pain and all the humanity that their back story has left in their lives.
Silent Testimony is a very apt name for this exhibition because although each portrait comes with a back story for visitors to read, it’s the portraits that do the talking.
If you want to know what the troubles were about, go to this exhibition and read the stories on the faces of people who lived through it.
Silent Testimony is bring shown at the Nerve Visual Gallery, Ebrington, Derry until September and admission is free