Temple Of My Familiar
Paul Wong, 1995
20 min., video

Website: www.onedge.tv/20th/94_temple.html

Temple of My Familiar is the name of a mural painted in Belfast by Canadian artist Nhan Duc Nguyen. This documentary situates Nguyen’s art within the political context of war-torn Northern Ireland, and explores the artist’s own cross-cultural search for an identity spanning East and West.

This documentary is about the placement of the Temple of My Familiar, a mural by Canadian artist Nhan Duc Nguyen in war-torn Belfast in September 1994. The mural was over four years in the making. This was the first and only time that this monumental 100′ x 15′ painting has ever been exhibited in its entirety.

In 1987, the artist was nearly blinded while working at the family restaurant, the result of a vicious attack by armed robbers. This extraordinary mural began as part of the healing process, of recovering memory and sight. Temple of My Familiar was created in 74 panels on his mother’s kitchen table.

This accessible artwork is bold, vivid and brimming with life. It is a fantastic journey that takes us from birth to redemption, and is part autobiography and part surrealistic imaginings. Constructed of self-portraits, mythological forms, and Buddhist deities, this cross-cultural work is produced from the artist’s unique Vietnamese-Canadian, east/west identities.

Temple of My Familiar was exhibited as a ‘peace wall’ at the Blackstaff Mill in the Catholic area of West Belfast. The placement of the mural coincided with the historic I.R.A. ceasefire in Sept. 1994.

Wong’s straightforward documentary style attempts to situate this art exhibition within the political context of Northern Ireland. The tape begins and ends with CBC and BBC television news reports about the 25-year civil war and peace process. We tour the streets of West Belfast, infamous for much sectarian violence, drive through the “no go zones” that divide Protestants and Catholics, see the murals and outspoken graffiti that demarcates territory that either supports the opposing positions of the I.R.A. (Irish Republican Army), or that of the just as deadly paramilitary forces of the Unionists. Intercut with this, Nguyen explains his art, and the Canadian, British and Northern Ireland organizers of this project, On Edge (Vancouver), Locus + (Newcastle) and Flax Art (Belfast), provide us with overview comments.

Executive Producer: Elspeth Sage
Editor: Paul Wong
On-Line Editor: Mary Alice
Sound Editor: Wayne Yung
Production Coordinator (Belfast): Aine Nic Giolla Coda
Lighting: Dominic Crickard
Preparators: Mike Hogg
Derval Fitzgerald
Post-production: Video In Studios
News clips courtesy: BBC, BCTV and CBC

A Flax Art/Locus +/On Edge Production (all rights reserved).

Distributor: Video Out