Orla Falls meets the people behind one of the murals from the London Mural Festival
It was the overnight arrival of a three-piece suite, television and fridge-freezer that convinced neighbours on Springfield Road N15 that things needed to change.
For 20 years, a wall at the end of their street leading to Broad Lane had attracted London’s fly tippers.
Mark Duggan had been killed by police a hundred metres away and youngsters who’d looted from the retail park across the street during the resulting riots had been handed hefty jail terms. The ensuing gentrification in the area meant many could only dream of buying one of the thousand new homes being built nearby. It felt like there was no community anymore.
Residents knew they were onto something when organisers of the first ever
London Mural Festival launched a ‘call for walls.’ They requested art that would speak to under-represented neighbours, uplifting them during another challenging year. The festival doesn’t do commissions, so no money changed hands − the owner of the property on Broad Lane simply signing a release form to confirm permission and approve the artist’s design.
The heroines of our mural are siblings in their early twenties. “We’re similar in lots of ways but we’re very different people,” says NJ.
“I come across as an introvert and Hillary is more of an extrovert. That’s how we met Neequaye − Hillary spotted him painting outside his workshop and started talking to him.”
Neequaye Dreph Dsane is a well-known artist, with a background in portraiture and illustration. He’s a lecturer at Portsmouth University and a former secondary school teacher who is influenced by art history and comic books, in equal measure.
Dreph’s vocation is celebrating unsung heroes and heroines, it’s a distinct style that has set him apart from others. Over the past 30 years he’s created a body of work across Asia, Africa, the UAE, Europe, and Central, South and North America.
Dreph speaks of the summer evening that he first met Hillary and NJ with fondness, he said: “We spent some time talking and I shared my creative process with them. What struck me about them was that although they are different in so many
ways, the oneness between them was so evident. I knew immediately that I wanted to celebrate their sisterhood.
“Soon after I was invited to paint the
closing mural of the London Mural Festival. The shape of the wall and its location were perfect for what I had in mind.”
The sisters were able to help shape how the piece would look and feel.
“It’s nice to be celebrated for just being yourself. I’ve never seen someone who looks like me portrayed like this before. He really got us as people,” explains NJ.
Hillary adds: “The mural is beautiful. It really encapsulates our Black British sisterhood, with all its vulnerabilities and strengths.
“The pandemic has taught us that we don’t live alone, and the importance of having one another’s back so we can lift one another up − Nathalie (NJ) has been my rock. I look forward to having my own daughter some day and I’ll enjoy showing this to her.”
The Springfield Road mural has become a new focal point for the community, watched over by its two guardian angels.
Dreph said: “The mural took six days and was a pleasure to paint. As a former Seven Sisters resident, I’m happy that the artwork has been so warmly received by so many in the local community.
You can visit another of Dreph’s murals on Tottenham High Road, opposite Bruce Grove station, and also online: www.dreph.co.uk
For more information: LMF@globalstreetart.com
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