Brexit sausage wars inspires art exhibition featuring giant bangers crossing roads




  • In World
  • 2022-12-08 18:27:24Z
  • By The Telegraph
An image from Shiro Masuyama
An image from Shiro Masuyama's Brexit Sausage exhibition, depicting eight giant sausages being chaperoned across the road - News Scan  

The Sausage War between Britain and Brussels has inspired an art exhibition in Northern Ireland examining the links between the national identities, bangers and Brexit.

"Brexit Sausage" was created in response to the burgeoning conflict over UK chilled meat products, which dominated the headlines in the summer of 2021.

The Telegraph was first to report that the UK and EU were on the brink of a trade war over a Northern Ireland Protocol ban on British bangers entering the province.

Shiro Masuyama, the only Japanese artist living in Belfast, was struck by the meaty muse when reading about the looming threat of trade tariffs and the sausage scandal.

Shiro Masuyama pictured with the sausage sculptures - Art Scan
Shiro Masuyama pictured with the sausage sculptures - Art Scan  

"I found it kind of funny but it also made sausages a very interesting subject," Mr Masuyama, 50, told the Telegraph.

"Everybody likes sausages. Irish people and British people. The Irish breakfast, the Northern Irish breakfast and the English breakfast always come with sausages.

"It makes it easy for everyone to access my work."

Mr Masuyama, who moved to Belfast with his Dublin born wife in 2010, said: "If I talk about politics, I always include a sense of humour, otherwise it is too much for people to take. It makes it easier to swallow."

Shiro Masuyama working on the sausage sculptures prior to their completion - News Scan
Shiro Masuyama working on the sausage sculptures prior to their completion - News Scan  

At the time though, the sausage wars were deadly serious.

As tempers frayed, DUP MP Sammy Wilson posed holding a pack of sausages for an almost-iconic photograph close to a poster declaring "Ulster is British".

The banger battle only stopped after Brussels surrendered.

Maros Sefcovic, the EU negotiator who was nicknamed the "sausage king" by Michael Gove, gave British sausages an exception to the Protocol rules.

It is a pyrrhic victory for British producers, who face fierce competition from top class Northern Irish sausages while still being shut out of the EU market, which Northern Irish banger-makers can access because of the Protocol.

Mr Masuyama believes that sausages have become an enduring symbol of Brexit in Northern Ireland.

"That's why I made this work," he said.

"Everyone was asking why are you carrying sausages or why are you sculpting sausages? I said because of Brexit and they laughed. Everyone gets it."

'People interpret it differently'

But is the humble sausage a symbol of unity or division?

"It depends on the people who are looking at it. I'm making a metaphor and I don't mind that people interpret it differently," he said.

"Some people have even asked me if there is something sexual about the sculptures because some sausages are bent and others stand up straight!"

Brexit Sausage is on at West Belfast's Cultúrlann.

It boasts eight fibreglass sculptures of sausages over a metre long, complete with realistic burnt bits, in "a social intervention".

There is also a video installation showing footage of Mr Masuyama's maritime odyssey on a small boat across the Irish Sea border from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

His vessel trails a string of the mammoth bangers as tasty-looking buoys behind it, tracing the controversial crossing after being thrown overboard.

The sausage sculptures were placed in the water across the Irish Sea border - News Scan
The sausage sculptures were placed in the water across the Irish Sea border - News Scan  
The string of the sausages deployed from a small boat across the Irish Sea border from Scotland to Northern Ireland - News Scan
The string of the sausages deployed from a small boat across the Irish Sea border from Scotland to Northern Ireland - News Scan  

Mr Masuyama had also bought some Scottish sausages, which were barbecued in international waters before arriving in Northern Ireland.

"We had the sausages in our stomachs so we had no problems with the Irish Sea Border," he said, laughing.

Shiro Masuyama brought some Scottish sausages to eat at sea prior to arriving in Northern Ireland - News Scan
Shiro Masuyama brought some Scottish sausages to eat at sea prior to arriving in Northern Ireland - News Scan  

Brexit Sausage will be exhibited in Ireland once the current run ends in late January.

Mr Masuyama said he would be very happy to then take the exhibition to Brussels, the EU's de facto capital, if invited.

Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol have caused some headaches for the Tokyo-born artist, with commissions from Ireland harder to come by and some art materials more difficult to obtain.

Asked if food can be art, he replied: "Why not?"

His sculptures of apples and apple cores are a popular sight in Ballymena, which is coincidentally one of Northern Ireland's sausage-making capitals.

But he does have one confession to make.

"I have to be honest. I used to live in Germany. And my favourite kind of sausage is the German wurst," he said.

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