A stunning Nelson Mandela mural in Toxteth is “the start of Princess Avenue and our journey” according to neighbors.
Artist John Culshaw’s mural of the former South African President on a building in Toxteth, Liverpool 8 is accompanied by one of Mandela’s quotes.
The piece, commissioned by Mandela8, took John seven days to complete at the Kuumba Imani Millennium Center (KIMC). John told ECHO: “About four of them were painting the wall green. The artwork took three days and I hate it when someone asks me to write on a piece, I’m not good at it. for that, I’m better at faces.”
READ MORE:The reinvention of the city of Merseyside with ‘restaurant culture’ after the ‘decline’ of the high street
John said: “For me Mandela is a legend. I grew up in a family of boxers so we didn’t play football we boxed and kind of the way my dad raised us was Muhammad Ali, he was the pinnacle of our household. I kind of see them the same figure fighting for the same rights.
“Before I knew who Nelson Mandela was, I knew Muhammad Ali and I knew why he fought and that was always kind of a connection for me, especially for this piece. That’s what made it so important for me trying to get it just right and also picking the right quote and image.”
“Putting them together was important to me and to (Ambassador Mandela8) Nze as well. Me and Nze worked together to find the right image to match them both.
“We wanted to show him that he was thinking to tie it to the word knowledge that is in the quote. To make it all feel like a whole.”
He added: “Nelson Mandela is a man who gave so much to humanity and who, by fighting so hard to abolish apartheid, showed the world that the only way forward is equality.
“I hope people in the community and visitors who see this mural will take away the meaning of the man and the understanding of his wise words.”
Sonia Bassey, President of Mandela 8, said: “This essentially marks the beginning of Princes Avenue and our journey as a community to new beginnings. It is like a symbol of hope and positivity.
“When you look at all the media perceptions of the area, everything we’ve done, including this mural, is about the positive aspects of our house. It’s a landmark, a way to bring tourists into the region.
“An iconic image of one of the greatest leaders of our time. It’s important for everyone to know how important Mandela is as a leader.”
Mandela8 Ambassador Stephen Nze said: “Mandela8 was looking for an art commission as we have the Mandelas coming this year. There was a great discussion and we spoke to KIMC and thank you to them for giving us this cloth.
“We found what you see, which is way beyond what we imagined. John sent sketches and we could see what it was going to be, but until you actually see it, seeing is believing.
“In a word: magnificent. From Mandela8’s point of view, we are delighted and thanks to John Culshaw for what he has done.
“It’s a landmark in our community and ‘education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world’ sums up the current climate we find ourselves in at this particular time. It’s this gaze of Madiba (the African name of Mandela), it’s as if he was looking at us and watching over us”.
KIMC chief executive Michelle Charters said: “KIMC is the legacy of the work of the Black Sisters of Liverpool, so it’s iconic that it’s a living legacy of our work and Mandela is a legacy for all of us. I’m very honored that Mandela8 has asked us to host this.
“It was great to see John working. The response has been amazing, not just the local community, but people have come from far and wide to ask and talk about it.
“Fathers brought their children to see the work in progress and educate them on who it was. We had South African men and women who came and it was very emotional because they had tears when they have seen him”.
John laughed as he concluded: “Boxer, Tyson Fury is my most memorable piece, because of its surrealism. I was starting a job at the Golden Gloves and I got a phone call and it was Tyson Fury saying I opened my gym and I need to do it in the next two days.
“I told (Golden Gloves manager) Wayne that it’s Tyson Fury on the phone and I’m going to have to put my tools down and go see him. He laughed and said, ‘I’ll do the same, carry on, go and do that’, it was just a crazy thing”.
For more information on John Culshaw and images of his work visit instagram: john_culshaw86