The story of the stunning Wales mural and the woman behind it
When Nicole Ready saw her face emblazoned on the side of a building in Cardiff she was understandably taken aback.
The freelance artist and creative is the subject of a stunning mural which appeared on the side of a building in Quay Street in the city centre ahead of the Wales v Denmark game on Saturday.
It features a giant artwork of the 22-year-old wearing a yellow Wales away shirt. Unsurprisingly, the striking image has resulted in lots of positive reaction, not least from Nicole’s friends.
“I’ve been working in London for the past week which meant I had to delete all my social media and ignore a lot of text messages because everyone was sending me photos and I wanted to see it in real life first,” she says.
“But yesterday I got to see it in person with my mum and it was incredible and so overwhelming. Little me on a massive wall in Cardiff, which I would walk past every day in high school after I got off the bus.”
The mural is part of a project commissioned by Adidas called ‘My Country. My Shirt’. It was painted by renowned Welsh street artist Bradley Rmer One and put together by Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson of Unify Creatives, the pair responsible for the ‘My City, My Shirt’ Cardiff City street art project.
“I’m the biggest fan of the Cardiff City shirt project and mural,” says Nicole. “Yusuf is one of my friends and we’ve been wanting to do a shoot for a little while together, particularly highlighting my Afro, and then this project came up and he asked me to model and it all aligned.”
The mural had to be put together quickly, as Wales progressed from their Euro 2020 group to the last 16 of the competition.
“I got sent a mock-up of it just over a week ago and it was so unexpected,” she says. “I didn’t know how to process the thought of my face being on a wall in Cardiff.
“But I thought if it does go ahead of them it will be a while until it comes out so I have time to let this sink in. Then a couple of days later I got sent a photo by Yusuf of it half done and I was like oh my goodness right okay this is happening then.”
The feedback has been wholly positive with the mural receiving much praise, something which has taken Nicole by surprise.
“It’s been overwhelming for sure,” she says. “The reach it has had, the range of people who interacted with it in real life and online is amazing to see. I am just so happy for Yusuf, Shawqi, and Bradley that their message and art is out there and being loved by so many people, it is just so well deserved.”
As much as Nicole is happy with the praise the mural has received, she’s keen to point out the important message behind the art.
“This project is bigger than us, it’s about representation and seeing faces in our community on the walls of our city,” she said. “What is most special to me about this is my little cousins’ reactions and how excited they are.
“So many people like me can relate to not feeling represented growing up, which pushes me to be part of the narrative that changes that. So the fact my little cousins can fully see themselves in this mural because it is of their big cousin, means so to me.”
The project was quite a challenge for Yusuf, Shawqi and Bradley.
“When Wales progressed in the tournament Adidas asked us if there was anything we could do ahead of the Denmark game,” says Yusuf. “I proposed the mural idea, but we only had four days to complete it.
“To give you an idea of timescale, previous murals usually take up to six weeks of planning.
“This was four days of scrambling and running around. The biggest challenge isn’t the artwork itself, it’s about finding a site, it’s finding the equipment, negotiating with all the people involved. The most crucial aspect is getting everything on board.”
Unify has gained many plaudits for their groundbreaking projects, which use the platform of visual arts and football to spread the message of inclusivity in sport. Adidas were so impressed with the ‘My City. My Shirt’ project, that they were keen to support the work Yusuf and his team were creating.
“We wanted to showcase people of colour from Wales,” says Yusuf. “A black female with an afro is very image and we wanted to make that the focus of the new mural.
“We are about Issues that speak to us, that affect us and we are concerned by,” he adds. “We don’t think enough is being done to tackle racism and discrimination in football. We don’t think things like Show Racism The Red Card work. Most of it is just empty statements. We wanted to do something a bit more provocative, edgy and organic.
“This is real work that resonates with people. The work comes from a very sincere place and we want to spread our message as far as possible.”
You can follow the work of Unify Creative on Twitter.
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