You don’t have to travel too far in the Welsh capital to see a wall adorned with an eye-catching mural.
There are murals about football, climate change, music, homelessness and of course, some of our best-known sporting stars. Some of them are quite small and understated, while others are big, bold and impossible to miss.
But although thousands of us have walked past them every day, how many of the stories behind them do you know?
The ‘My Shirt’ series
Two of the city’s newest murals are of women in football shirts have appeared in the capital.
The first was mother-of-two Maimuna Yoncana wearing a Cardiff City shirt, cradling her baby bump.
On the side of a three-storey building on James Street in Butetown, it was created by street artist Bradley Rmer in the space of just a few days as part of the My City, My Shirt project – set up by visual artists Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson, a creative collective known as Unify – which aims to encourage more people of colour to connect with their city and football club.
Maimuna, who moved to Cardiff four years ago from Guinea-Bissau, said she was “in shock” when she saw the unmissable mural for the first time, adding: “It means a lot to represent my community”.
In June, Bradley – or Rmer One – was hard at work again creating another huge artwork inspired by the latest photo series from Unify.
Their second mural, on the side of La Pantera on Quay Street in the city centre, shows 22-year-old Nicole Ready donning a yellow Wales away shirt, accompanied by the words ‘My Cymru, My Shirt’ – the title of the series it represents.
The project, which was commissioned by Adidas to coincide with the Euros, saw Yusuf and Shawqi take photos of inspirational people of colour from different communities, all wearing Wales home and away football shirts.
“I went and saw [the mural] with my mum, and it was just incredible,” said Nicole. “It was so overwhelming.
“When it was done, people started sending it to me, posting stories and tagging me. I didn’t want to see it before I saw it myself in person when I was back in Cardiff. I had to delete my social media – so many of my family were phoning me and sending me photos.”
Next time you use Cardiff Central Railway Station take a look at the brightly coloured water tower that sits next to Platform 0, overlooking the River Taff.
The 15m high tower, which was completed in 1932 and, in 1998, became a Grade II listed building, previously supplied water to steam trains and was initially painted brown and beige, the colours of the Great Western Railway.
Between 1984 and 2012, it was decorated with a mural of large daffodils – but in 2015, an idea was developed by artist Pete Fowler and project manager Gavin Johnson for a wider project called “Weird & Wonderful Wales” which aimed to showcase Wales’ mythical past at different Cadw sites across the country.
After securing funding, the mural was installed in 2018, and is comprised of images inspired by The Mabinogion – the ancient oral stories of Wales which were written down in the Middle Ages.
Within the mural are depictions of the giant king of Britain, Bendigeidfran, who fought the Irish and whose severed head talked to his men for 87 years and Blodeuwedd, who was conjured from flowers by two magicians, but was later transformed again into an owl as punishment for trying to murder her husband.
Womanby Street’s musical heritage
Created by local artist and designer, Mark James, this mural is on the side Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street in the heart of the city centre.
It features award-winning musician Gwenno and was unveiled a week after she won the Welsh Music Prize for her bilingual album Y Dydd Olaf in 2015.
The huge artwork, which is 12 metres high and 38 metres wide, was designed for the Get It Right campaign, which aimed to prevent piracy in music and television by promoting the value of creativity in the UK.
On seeing the mural for the first time, Gwenno said: “I was incredibly honoured and very surprised. It’s amazing, but completely surreal to see my face up there, especially on the side of Clwb Ifor Bach, which is a massive integral part of any musician’s life in Cardiff.
“I’m just glad the walls are being used for street art. It makes the city look a lot more exciting.”
‘No ice caps? No Cardiff’
This striking artwork, showing a humpback whale and its calf swimming under a partially submerged Principality Stadium, appeared on the side of a terraced house on a house on the corner of Merches Gardens/Dinas Street in Grangetown.
It aims to illustrate the impact that global warming and rising sea levels could have on Cardiff, which last year was named as the most at risk city in the UK and the sixth most at risk in the world from climate change, according to a Nestpick study.
The mural is one of a series that Extinction Rebellion Cardiff is helping to fund across the city as part of their No Ice Caps, No Cardiff campaign, which aims raise public awareness of the climate emergency through street art.
In November 2020, two more murals were painted by XR in Adamsdown and Splott to protest plans for a new waste incinerator in St Mellons, while other pieces of wall art depicting ocean scenes appeared in different areas of Cardiff, including Roath and Canton, earlier this year.
The importance of home
This colourful depiction of an elderly man in a striped jumper, tenderly holding a miniature house was unveiled in 2016.
The huge artwork, which took 70 litres of paint and just over a week to create, was commissioned by Linc Cymru to raise awareness of homelessness.
Cardiff-based artists Helen Bur and Sam Worthington – who make up arts collective Modern Alchemists – said they were inspired to create the mural after finding out more about Linc, a not-for-profit organisation providing affordable housing, social care and health care services across south Wales.
Helen said: “Linc is intrinsically about housing and care.
“This prompted us to play around with the concept of home, the importance of having somewhere called home, and how challenging it can be, especially at this time of year, not to have a home. This was the inspiration behind our mural.”
While it wasn’t to be at this year’s tournament, no Welsh fan will ever forget their team’s epic journey to the semi-finals at Euro 2016.
It was Wales’ first major tournament since 1958, and to celebrate the team qualifying, this impressive mural of Gareth Bale was sprayed onto the side of a shop on Church Road in Whitchurch, near to where the footballer grew up.
The mural was commissioned for a special BBC Wales Today programme, and took street artist Bradley Woods around five hours to complete.
It is not only the artwork of Bale in the city though however, with another mural being created in 2016 on the changing rooms at Pontcanna Fields.
Painted by artist Bryce Davies, it features the Welsh talisman together with fellow athletes Sam Warburton, Colin Jackson and Tanni Grey-Thompson.
This huge mural was designed by Cardiff-based street artist Colour Doomed and covers the side wall of his friend’s house on Inverness Place in Roath.
However, when it was painted back in 2016, not everyone was too happy about it, with the finished product receiving mixed reviews from local residents.
But the artist and curator said that some people’s negative views wouldn’t stop him from painting.
“Some people like to complain that street art isn’t in line with the Victorian architecture of certain areas in Cardiff,” he said. “But this was a plain white wall, and the owner asked me to do it, so why not create something on it?
Nearby Northcote Lane also has its share of murals, many of which were created as part of the Empty Walls street art festival, which artists like Colour Doomed helped to organise.
From dinosaurs to man
A sight familiar to many students in Cardiff, this colourful artwork stretches across the brick wall on the Crwys Road railway bridge in Cathays.
Known as The False Evolution of Man, the piece depicts pre-historic animals evolving from fish and dinosaurs through to kangaroos, apes and armadillos.
The artwork was commissioned by Cardiff Council, but artists Wendy Bridges and Stuart Reeve were given total creative freedom when thinking up the piece which they painted back in 2015.
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