A mural of activist Jen Reid has been painted in Bristol by Mr Cenz. The image shows Jen wearing a beret and with a gloved fist in the air. She is cast against a purple backdrop, created in Mr Cenz’s unique improvisational style. The mural is called ‘United Souls, United Goals’ and the image is a familiar one. It is this which came to symbolise the defiance of a city after the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston.
Colston was the notorious slave trader who for some reason had been venerated in the city of Bristol for years. The statue was famously toppled and dumped in the harbour in June 2020. This followed global protests about racism and the murder of George Floyd. A chain reaction then followed Colston’s very public demise. Statues across the world found themselves being looked at in a completely new light. It resulted in a huge debate about the appropriateness of some figures displayed in the public realm.
Black Lives Matter
In Bristol, the area around the now empty plinth became a centrepoint for further protests in support of Black Lives Matter. At one point following the toppling the activist Jen Reid clambered onto the plinth and stood with her arm outstretched and fist clenched in a black power salute. This image would eventually come to symbolise the movement in the city. Speaking about the decision to get up there Jen said that it was totally spontaneous. “I didn’t even think about it. It was like an electrical charge of power was running through me. My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of Colston and to give them power. I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality. A surge of power out to them all”.
A Surge of Power
Just over a month after the Colston statue was removed, another took its place. Called ‘A Surge of Power‘ it was made by Marc Quinn and modelled on that prior image of Jen Reid. Created using black resin it was placed on the now empty plinth. Installed in the early morning of 15 July 2020 it was quickly removed by the council the day after. Despite it’s brief life on the plinth, the statement had been made. Jen Reid’s defiant image received a new lease of life. In many ways the statue revealed the possibilities of what could be on the plinth. It signaled a sea change from the type of dusty veneration usually reserved for the public sphere.
Jen Reid Mural by Mr Cenz
Mr Cenz’s mural of Jen Reid shows how the image is now much more firmly cemented within the consciousness of Bristol. It has been painted in one of the cities most famous street art locations. Painted at 80 Stokes Croft, it is on the wall next to Hamilton House. It was a spot once occupied by the popular breakdancing Jesus from Brighton based artist Cosmo Sarson. Opposite can still be seen Banksy’s classic ‘Mild Mild West‘ and the location is a must see on any Bristol street art tour. Accompanying the mural are the words “Rise up Bristol stand tall… Bristol’s a city for all” by the poet Lawrence Hoo. The lettering for these were created by Inkie, himself one of the cities most famous street artists.
Commissioned by the Bristol Eighteen this was a group formed in the wake of the Colston statue’s removal. The intention being to create an organisation to raise funds for anti-racist educational institutions. Public art certainly seems to be at the heart of their mantra. The prominent mural of Jen Reid in Stokes Croft sends a message in what is a very visible part of the city.
Mr Cenz is well known for his depiction of strong women in his artwork. Speaking of the piece he said “I’m honoured and excited to be asked to created this mural as I feel very passionately about the cause. My work fits this project perfectly as it carries a message of equality, unity and universal beauty. Portraying strong and empowered women all of equal stature”.
‘United Souls, United Goals’ is the mural of Jen Reid painted by Mr Cenz and supported by Bristol Eighteen. Inkie also assisted by painting the lettering and all photos used in this piece are courtesy of Street Art Atlas. The mural can be found at 80 Stokes Croft in Bristol. For more street art in Bristol have a look here.