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Work underway on repainting of ‘Mona Lisa’ mural in new permanent home

28 Feb 2022 7 minute read
The ‘Mona Lisa’ mural is being repainted in a new permanent location (Credit: Cathy Owens)

The iconic Cardiff ‘Mona Lisa’ mural which was the subject of a storm of protest when it was painted over, is now being repainted, this time in a new permanent location.

When it came to light that the My City My Shirt mural, celebrating the joint heritage of Cardiff’s Black and other ethnic minority communities, was being painted over to make way for a McDonald’s ad, there was uproar, which resulted in the burger giant requesting that the mural be repainted.

Now, after much negotiation the mural has found a new home and is currently taking shape on a wall less than a 100 yards from its old home on James Street.

The location where the new mural is currently being painted on James Street, near to the Wales Millennium Centre

The mural, which was created by local creative Yusuf Ismail, was to be replaced by an ad from burger giant McDonalds, until the company was informed of the public anger at the move.

Within hours of the mural being painted McDonalds posted a response on Twitter to a post by Black Lives Matter Cardiff.

After the good news, Cathy Owens, who is working alongside Yusuf and the Unify Creative team, posted: “Thank you so much everyone. It is great news that McDonalds responded so positively, so quickly. The @unifycreative_ team will now be in discussion with them about replacing the mural and the long term plans for the wall.

“It would be wonderful if other companies could recognise the benefit of investing in the creativity of our young, diverse communities in Cardiff. Please get in touch with
@unifycreative_ to support their work.

“We will, of course, need long-term funding to keep that site available, so we’ll share more information about the plans with you as soon as possible.

“Yusuf and the team are delighted, of course, and are in discussion about exactly what might be repainted.”

Responding to Cathy, McDonalds posted how it would be keen to support the creative community in the city.

The wall space which is owned by Mischiefs Bar in Cardiff Bay, was given to Yusuf and his team at Unity Creative for a nominal fee. That deal had come to an end and an ad agency had bought the space for its client, McDonalds.

Shaun Shah, manager at Mischiefs, said that the decision was out of his hands, due to the bar having signed a five year lease contract with the ad agency who dictate what appears on the wall.

“We gave Yusuf the space last year originally for six months, we then extended it because there was no advertising coming in, due to the pandemic,” he said.

When asked if he understood that people would be upset at the removal of the mural, he added: 

“Yes, absolutely. While I understand people’s frustrations, sadly it is out of our hands as we cannot break the contract with the agency.”

The mural by Yusuf Ismail. Picture by Peter Gilbey.

The removal of the much loved mural had been met with dismay and anger.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething tweeted: I could not be more unimpressed with
@McDonaldsUK @McDonalds- staggeringly insensitive.

Yusuf Ismail, a creative from Cardiff with Somali heritage created the mural celebrating the city’s black citizens’ joint heritage as part of the project – ‘My City, My Shirt’.

Cardiff has the oldest black population in Wales and one of the oldest Muslim communities in the UK. Yet, instead of celebrating the communities’ joint Welsh heritage and the massive contributions to the city, the community is often demonised, ghettoised and faces daily micro-aggressions and discrimination, the artist said.

Speaking to us at the unveiling last year Yusuf said that he felt that Butetown has been left behind and cordoned off by city planning. The heritage of the Cardiff Docks is all but forgotten and plans to build a military museum in the area on public land, despite widespread protests, is emblematic of the exclusion and discrimination the community faces, he said.

“A public mural like this will be a powerful affirmation and provide daily comfort and encouragement,” he said. “For Cardiff City FC supporters, and the wider population it can be an eye-opener, a point of view they may have previously missed, and hopefully a step towards changing mind sets.

“Following BLM demonstrations, the recent review of statues and monuments associated with slavery in Wales, and the announcement to introduce black history to our new Welsh curriculum, change is in the air and it is time to act now.

“Many people from our community are angry following the death of Mohamud Hassan and we want to give the community something to celebrate, an uplifting statement after this deeply challenging time.”


Yusuf said that he had identified Cardiff City FC as a key vehicle for sending a strong message about the issues that Cardiff’s black communities face and showcasing their contribution to and place in the city.

Yusuf added he wanted to make a statement on racial equality. Football culture is often the setting for racist behaviour and discrimination; many black and other racialised communities are not able to safely support their local club, he said.

The mural by Yusuf Ismail. Picture by Peter Gilbey.

‘My City, My Shirt’, a project by the UNIFY collective, is a photography series showcasing Cardiff City FC football fans from diverse backgrounds has been joined by a huge public mural declaring: “We are Cardiffians. We are part of this club and this city. We’re of the past, present and future. We belong and this is our home.”

Unify are also the group behind the much praised My Wales My Shirt mural on Quay Street in Cardiff City centre.

The Unify Creative mural on Quay Street in Cardiff city centre (Credit: Unify Creative)

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