Street artists create new Black History mural for park

The mural-in-progress at Chicksand Street Park. Pic: Lauren Sneath

By Aisha Payne, Caitlin Tilley and Lauren Sneath

Street artists Coma and Sky High have created a new mural in a Tower Hamlets park as part of Black History Season in the borough.

The mural in Chicksand Street Park is based around the question “What is diversity to you?”. Local residents were invited to contribute to the project by submitting short videos with their answers, in an effort to better understand the borough’s diverse communities.  

The new mural in progress. Video: Caitlin Tilley

Local volunteers from GoodGym, an organisation which combines exercise with local community projects, hosted an event preparing the wall last Friday in preparation for the mural. 

Endad Rahman, a representative from GoodGym said: “I returned to this very site in Brick Lane a few years ago for a kick-about with Paul Canoville, the first black football player at Chelsea Football Club. In that sense Coma and Sky High will be creating a befitting mural which we are proud to be a part of.” 

The project is being led by Trapped in Zone One, a London-based arts collective aiming to bring arts and culture into local communities. They work by creating partnerships with community groups and larger organisations, and supporting local artists.  

Bablu Miah, 43, head and founder of Trapped in Zone One, told ELL: “Our project came out of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with Black History Month in October we wanted to do something to represent Tower Hamlets as a diverse community.”

“We want to inspire young people in the long term and stop them from going down bad routes. Positivity is the key. Learn art skills or talk to us. We will support you as much as we can. If we don’t safeguard our own, no one will.”

Head and founder of Trapped in Zone One Bablu Miah. Pic: Caitlin Tilley

Artists Coma and Sky High are both artists with designs rooted in large-scale aerosol art production. 

Graffiti artist Coma told ELL: “We were concentrating on letters and we wanted something that wasn’t too long, but was impactful. We asked for the public opinions on diversity and people were sending in their videos, and certain words were coming up, especially with the younger people who use the space a lot more than others. They wanted things that would inspire them to do more and to push themselves, so that’s where the ‘ambition’ bit comes from.

Graffiti artists Sky High and Coma at work. Pic: Caitlin Tilley

“But there’s no light without dark. So we thought it would be nice if we could draw from people who might be looking at things in a more negative way and what they feel is wrong with society today. I think that’s where the ‘division’ part comes from.”

“We did the other mural about knife crime in Easter last year to say: ‘More life goals less lost souls’, and I thought it would be nice if we carried on the ‘more or less’ theme. We got the all the kids from the local estate to help us out with that one,” he said.

“I get stick sometimes because they say ‘you’ve got the white guy painting the mural’, but it’s not about looking at anyone as a white person or a black person, it’s just about looking at them as a person.”

The first mural on the site, painted almost two years ago. Pic: Lauren Sneath

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