Arthur Wharton was the world’s first black professional football player. Starting his career at Darlington FC as a goalkeeper before also playing for a number of other teams across the north. A mural has now been created to celebrate his life in the town where he lived and made his debut.
Celebrating Black History Month, the mural in Darlington was commissioned by BT Sports. Painted by Spanish artist Jay Kaes it shows a portrait of Arthur Wharton. Using a blend of photo realism and a more modern style. Kaes mixes them together to create a link between the past and the present. The mural itself is located on the Arthur Wharton Foundation Centre in the town.
All Round Sportsman
As a sportsman Arthur Wharton could have probably chosen any number of disciples. He excelled as a goalkeeper during the fledging years of professional football. However he was also a notable runner, cyclist and cricketer. In 1886 Wharton won the Amateur Athletics Association national 100 yards championship becoming the fastest man in Britain. A competition held at Stamford Bridge in London it was the first time the event had been won by a northerner. He would go on to retain the title in 1887.
Arthur Wharton Mural
The mural on the Arthur Wharton Foundation Centre in Darlington is also full of clues as to Wharton’s background. Within it the black and white colours of Darlington FC can be seen. These are fused with the colours of the Ghanaian flag. He was born in what was then Jamestown but what is now Accra. He would move to the North East at 19 with the initial intention of training to become a methodist preacher.
Two of Arthur Wharton’s awards are also shown on the mural. The Prince Hassan Pacha Challenge Trophy earned from winning the 100 yards championship and the Cleveland Challenge Cup he won with Darlington in 1887. His birth name ‘Kwame’ can also be seen on the mural. In total it took three days to complete ready for the 155th anniversary of his birth on 28 October 2020.
The Arthur Wharton mural in Darlington can be found at the Arthur Wharton Foundation Centre at Widowfield Street in Darlington. It was commissioned by BT Sports and painted by Jay Kaes. It’s unveiling marks the 155th anniversary of Wharton’s birth in 1865. All photos used in this piece have been provided courtesy of Tony Ellis.
About the artist:
Jay Kaes is a Spanish Street Artist living in the UK, his murals can be seen around the world. His aim through his art is to brighten public or private environments through wall murals. He seeks to motivate the people looking, with pieces of art loaded with modern references and meaning, addressing current issues to contribute something positive to society.
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