Just for one day. The 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement as depicted by Esther O’Kelly


‘Keening is a traditional form of vocal lament for the dead. In Ireland and Scotland it is customary for women to wail or keen at funerals. Keening has also been used as part of civil disobedience and protest.’ 

‘Keening’ is a collection of paintings informed by my own experience of living in Belfast in the shadow of conflict. Using memory and intuition, the work intends to evoke the everyday spirit of Belfast, to define our sense of place and community. These paintings look beyond the illusion of talks and deals to everyday life. They explore the raw beauty of who we are, our basic need to live in peace, in this place where the violent echoes of our past are still reverberating. 

I see The Good Friday Agreement as a vessel that holds the grief of a community in escrow. These paintings explore our fragile human state, how we experience loss and how we haveagreed to place our trust in such a fragile concept as a peace deal. The Good Friday Agreement honours our connection to the past and promises to shape our future, but Stormont now stands as an abandoned house. All the while lives are lived and lost, children have come and gone, family life continues to be sucked into the passage of time and the precious moments we live for are fleeting.  

The venue for ‘Keening’ is Joan’s Hair Salon. A place where everyday life takes place, where we laugh, gossip, cry and grieve. A place at the heart of our community, a place to be vulnerable. A place where we reveal the hidden elements below the skin of this place called home.