“You saw it in the tears of those who survived” – The Grenfell Tower Mural

Deputy Editor Stephanie Bagnall reports on a new mural for the Grenfell Tower disaster.

A mural to honour the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower was created on Thursday 21st July in London at Village Underground. Painted by the renowned English street artist, Ben Eine, the mural featured a poem about the disaster by the Booker Prize winner and Nigerian writer Ben Okri.

pee1_IMG0086copy--1Okri’s poem “Grenfell Tower, June 2017”, composed in the days after the fire and first broadcast on Channel 4 News and published in the Financial Times, will be rendered across the 120-square-metre wall of the Village Underground on Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, East London. The lines “You saw it in the tears of those who survived” will appear in Eine’s colourful style – with the full 1,600-word poem appearing across the wall as the background to the main text.

Bahari – ‘This mural is our attempt to share Ben’s poem with rest of the world. We wanted to have this wall close to the burnt tower, but the tower is already there.”

Okri is most famous for his 1991 Booker Prize winning novel The Famished Road. He was born in Nigeria and educated in England before taking up poetry and fiction in the 1970s. His writing has always had flavours of political and social issues since the beginning of his career. Okri lives very close to the North Kensington neighbourhood where the fire took place.

“I think it is an extraordinary idea,” Okri said, referring to the mural of his poem. “Anything that can draw attention to that outrage to humanity, anything that can commemorate the dead and help the survivors has my support.”

Eine, who was asked to design the Amnesty International 50th anniversary poster in 2011, has had his work appear all across East London and other cities around the world for over a decade. Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron even presented an Eine piece as a gift to former US President Barack Obama in 2010.

“As a Londoner,” Eine said, “with deep roots in the city’s subculture, I am proud and privileged to be involved in this important and historic initiative. Our hope for this mural, which we’re painting in response to the Grenfell fire, is that it will help keep this discussion alive and bring the victims and survivors out of the shadows so that they can receive justice. I’m happy that my skills can try to help make a positive difference after such an awful tragedy.”

Our hope for this mural, which we’re painting in response to the Grenfell fire, is that it will help keep this discussion alive and bring the victims and survivors out of the shadows so that they can receive justice.

The organisation who delivered this mural, Paint The Change, was created by Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker who has lived in London for over a decade. Bahari started Paint the Change to encourage dialogue around critical social issues through the arts. The Grenfell fire artwork is the project’s first mural.

Paint the Change grew out of Bahari’s street art and human rights project, ‘Education Is Not A Crime’, which has produced more than 40 murals around the world and two documentary films to raise awareness of education inequality. The new project will use public art and film to address issues from injustice against minorities to environmental degradation and other social causes.

“Our wall in Shoreditch is an attempt to reflect the anger in West London in our corner of the city,” Bahari said. “We’re honoured to have Ben Okri’s blessing, and proud to be working with Ben Eine, who’s going to create a new masterpiece on this wall.”

Village Underground has hosted murals on its Holywell Lane wall for 10 years – visible to thousands of people a day.