For years, Nicole Ready walked past a mundane Cardiff street on her way to school without giving it much thought.
But today, the road takes on much greater significance both for the 22-year-old and for the city she lives in. A giant mural of Nicole wearing a yellow Wales football shirt now lights up the side of a building.
“I went to see it with my mom, and it was just amazing. It was so overwhelming,” she said.
It comes after a similar campaign saw the creation of a mural of a pregnant black woman carrying a shift from Cardiff City to Butetown, an area which is home to Wales’ oldest black community. You can read more about the woman behind this mural here.
The huge work of art proclaims the words “My Cymru, My Shirt”, the title of the photo series project it represents. It strives to use football and the visual arts as a platform to “celebrate different communities, promote diversity and advocate for inclusion, in a very authentic and authentic way”.
The initiative is the brainchild of two visual artists – Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson – who make up the Cardiff-based creative collective Unify. The mural itself was created by renowned Cardiff-based graffiti artist Rmer One.
The project, commissioned by Adidas to coincide with Euro, saw the duo take photos of inspiring people of color from different communities, all wearing Wales football shirts at home and away.
It follows a series of similar photos launched by Unify last year titled “My City, My Shirt”. He sought to encourage ethnic minority communities to identify with Cardiff and its football club.
After hearing about Unify through a friend who posed for the My City campaign, My Shirt, Nicole was inspired to participate in the project herself.
“I became friends with Yusuf, then they did this mural in Butetown. And I walked past her every day to go to work. It was amazing, I was so amazed by it,” she said.
Four days before the Euro kicked off, Yusuf invited Nicole to take part in a shoot for the My Cymru, My Shirt campaign – not realizing that the visual artist had bigger plans for her portrait, just before the game. Wales v Denmark on Saturday. June 26.
“I was on my way to London where I worked last week, and they sent me a mockup of my photo on a wall and I was like ‘What? ” she laughed.
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Within days, the mural had been completed on the side of La Pantera bar on Quay Street, and Nicole said the response had been phenomenal.
“When that was done people started sending it to me, posting stories and tagging me. I didn’t want to see it until I saw it myself when I was back in Cardiff. I had to delete my social networks. So a lot of my family would phone me and send me pictures. “
Nicole, who is of Bajan descent, said the fresco highlighted the importance of representation and touched her personally.
“I only started wearing my hair in afro in the last few years. If I had seen a photo like this when I was in high school and walked by it everyday with my hair slicked back, trying to make me look white and fit in with all my white classmates, that would have changed something for me, “she said.
Recalling her family’s response to the mural, she said: “After going down to the mural, I went to my grandmother’s house and my little cousins were there. And I walked in and they said to each other. : “You are on the wall! You’re on the wall! ”Seeing how happy it made them, I realized that the project was all about representation.
“It’s bigger than me and Shawqi and Yusuf. It’s about allowing people to see themselves, and being able to see someone who is mixed race, someone who is black, someone who has an afro. For my little cousins, they can see themselves fully in that, because it’s from their big cousin. That’s what is most special to me. When you don’t feel represented, you know how to how important it is for others to feel represented. “
“So that they can tell it’s their cousin on the wall, it’s what they’re going to be closest to being themselves on the wall. It’s the best representation they can see. someone who looks like them, and someone who has the same last name as them. For me, it’s just very special to my little cousins and their reactions. “
Nicole, who has studied fashion promotion and is the editor-in-chief of Docks Magazine, said her own work reflects Yusuf and Shawqi’s message.
The magazine, which began as a university project, quickly turned into a major celebration of performance in the city.
“One of the things that I really care about is my community. My community is the people of Bute Town, ”she explained.
“I have seen personally and historically how there is this negative perception and not an accurate portrayal of the people of Bute Town. So I decided with my magazine that I wanted to challenge this. I did stylized portraits of people at within the community. “
His words are echoed by Yusuf, who also discusses the issue of dual heritage faced by many ethnic minorities in Wales.
“I remember growing up, I struggled with it, because I didn’t feel like I was Somali, I didn’t feel Welsh enough,” he said.
“You are stuck in this identity limbo so to speak. A lot of these platforms like football, like rugby, can really help people have a sense of identity, of belonging and of pride in their country. what the power of sport is. “