Street artists combine to paint murals of endangered animals in Tower Hamlets

The hugely anticipated ‘Endangered ‘event saw some of the countries best environmental artists descend upon the railway arches of Mile End and leave the residents of this part of the Tower Hamlets with some of the most impressive murals in the city.

From a standing start the giant arches which line the southern boundary to Tower Hamlets Cemetery park were transformed over the weekend with each arch becoming a frame on which a different endangered species would be highlighted.

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Curlews by ATM

Organised by popular local artist Louis Masai and Charlotte Webster from Human Nature alongside the friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.  This was a community art event with the live painting acting as the catalyst for the start of conversation about conservation.

Many of the artists we’ve met before.   Louis was interviewed by this blog a few years back and we’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the collaborative shows hosted by art platform Human Nature.  We’ve also featured the likes of ATM, Jonsey and craftivist artist Carrie Reichardt on this platform before.  All are artists we’ve been following for a while so to see their work lined up in a giant outdoor arch lined gallery in East London is something indeed.

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Curators Louis Masai and Charlotte Webster worked with the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park to put on the event

Each artist was given an endangered species and asked to represent it in their own style. The resultant creations were pretty special:

Louis Masai – Rhino

Now numbering only 29,000 this has decreased from 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century.  They are under threat as a result of large scale poaching in Africa and Asia where they live.  To read more have a look here.

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Louis Masai – Rhino

Louis Masai – Blue Whale

The biggest animal ever known to have existed it was almost wiped out as a result of commercial whaling.  It’s recovering now but only slightly because of the whaling ban but faces other problems such as the impact of climate change on it’s natural environment.  To read more click here.

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Louis Masai – Blue Whale

Louis Masai – Coral Reef

Overfishing, coastal developments and pollution are threatening coral reefs around the world.  Many are covered with sand and cement to form cheap land masses, others are purposely destroyed to aid with maritime navigation.  Climate change is also having an impact on their eco system.  For more information click here.

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Louis Masai – Coral Reef

Carrie Reichardt – Bees

Intensive farming and the overuse of pesticides and insecticides has been causing major problems for the bee population which has been seeing dramatic shrinkage over recent years.  Carrie Reichardt the craftivist artist created a giant tile extinction symbol surrounded by imagery and symbolism from the media and elsewhere about the plight of the bee.  The last time we featured Carrie she had created a giant mosaic over an iconic London black cab.  To read more about the plight of the bees click here

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Carrie Reichardt – Bees

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Carrie Reichardt’s extinction symbol with modern cultural references to the plight of the bee

Jim Vision – Polar Bear

Climate change is affecting the natural habitat of the polar bear in that it is shrinking and resources for its survival are becoming more scarce.  Offshore drilling for oil and gas around the Arctic is also having an effect and damaging the natural environment further.  In his mural Vision has depicted a burning oil platform with a polar bear clinging to a lump of rapidly melting sea ice.  For more information about the Polar Bear click here.

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Jim Vision – The Polar Bear

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Jim Vision in action

Faunagraphic – Grey Breasted Parakeet

Only an estimated 250 left worldwide the grey breasted parakeet is critically endangered with habitat destruction in its native Brazil being a major cause of its decline.  Trapping for the illegal trade in caged birds is also a major problem.  For more information have a look here, the mural was painted by Sheffield’s Faunagraphic.

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Faunagraphic – Grey Breasted Parakeet

ATM – Curlew

One of our most rapidly declining breeding bird species they now number an estimated 68,000 pairs in the UK.  Their habitats are under threat from climate change, tidal management and urbanisation which is shrinking their environment.  ATM who we previously featured in this blog here, has become well known for his giant finely detailed bird murals around the walls of London as he campaigns to raise awareness of the plight of the Curlew and many other endangered birds in the UK.  For more information about the Curlew have a look at the RSPB site here.

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ATM – Curlew

Fiya One – Sumatran Orangutan

Critically endangered there are estimated to be only 7300 left as their environment is seriously damaged as a result of logging both illegal and legal.  The Sumatran Orangutan almost exclusively lives in trees so this is a major disruption to it’s habitat.  For more information have a look at the work of the Rainforest Alliance.

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Fiya One – Sumatran Orangutan

Vibes – Tiger

Only an estimated 3200 left in just over a century the Tiger population has reduced by 97%.  Again a loss of habitat is principally to blame with the clearing of forests for agriculture and rising sea levels in low lying areas in areas where the Tigers live significantly reducing their environment.  For more information about Tiger Conservation have look here.

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Vibes – Tiger

Xenx – Hummingbird

Depicting a burning forest habitat, Xenx recreated the sort of scene which is causing the destruction of so much of the Hummingbirds natural environment.  Climate change is also affecting Hummingbird migratory patterns meaning that it is becoming more difficult for them to find food.  Have a look at what the World Land Trust is doing to support the Hummingbird here.

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Xenx – Hummingbird

Andy Council – Asian Elephant

Once common the ivory trade, habitat destruction and human conflict has resulted in Elephant numbers becoming severely depleted.  In some areas work is going on to stabilise the population but in others the issues continue.

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Andy Council

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Asian Elephant by Andy Council

Jonsey – Western Lowland Gorilla

Human Nature regular and previously featured on Inspiring City in this interview, Jonsey’s bronze gorilla can be found atop a street sign on the street opposite the arches.  This is the style of work for which Jonsey has become famous such is the detail and the un obtrusive nature of these fine pieces of work.  Gorillas are hunted and poaching is a real problem as is the loss of habitat in the areas where the gorillas live.  Now the estimated number is only 95,000 and that number is decreasing.   To find out more about the Western Lowland Gorilla have a look here.

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Jonsey – Western Lowland Gorilla

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More bronzes and works by Jonsey can be seen around the arches

Von Leadfoot and Tanya Loretta Dee – Letter writer and poet

Letter writer Von Leadfoot brought the words of haiku poet Tanya Dee to life as it spanned the width of the first section of railway arches providing an overarching (quite literally) narrative of wisdom to the days events.  The words say “All of nature rests in the hands of man’s wisdom, let us not be fools”

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Words on the top of the arches.  Lettering by Von Leadfoot , words by Tanya Loretta Dee

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Inspiring City hanging out by the fire

‘Endangered’ took place on 10 April 2016 on Ackroyd Drive in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, over 30 acres of woodland in the heart of East London.  It is run by The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.  All photographs were taken on the day of the event, entry is free.