Nicholas Hamilton

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The First Breath (9th March 1954) , 2011

Gold and Silver thread, black cloth, Dimensions Variable

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The title of this piece refers to the birth date of the hunger striker Bobby Sands, one of the most iconic figures from the period of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles. He died thirty years ago as a result of starvation on 5th May 1981.

During the hunger strikes of the early 1980’s black flags were placed outside homes that were in solidarity with the hunger striker’s cause. In addition to using this symbol I commissioned an astrological natal chart for Bobby Sands, which I then stitched onto the black fabric that makes up one side of the flag. It depicts the alignment of the planets within the twelve houses. The other side shows the stars and position of the planets on the day he was born.

Crucially, I should mention that as I was growing up his image became a source of nightmares for me. I come from a Protestant background and far from being a heroic martyr I saw him as the bogeyman. For me, he was the archetypal other and in the process of embroidering the flag I wanted to explore my own projections and demonization of this figure.

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