In July, we were approached requesting wall space for a new mural celebrating the Liverpool poet, Levi Tafari. Last week the poet unveiled this new street art, organised in collaboration with The Windows Project.
Levi Tafari is a celebrated poet, born and raised in Liverpool by Jamaican parents. Levi performs his ‘dub poetry’, which spans four decades, with a rhythmic energy similar to Reggae. The themes usually centre around Liverpool life, the Black experience, or his Jamaican heritage. A leader for creativity in the city, Levi works on educational projects and delivers creative writing workshops in schools. His musical projects include working with Ghanaian drum and dance ensemble Delado, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and his own reggae fusion band, Ministry of Love.
The City of Liverpool awarded Levi Tafari with Citizen of Honour in February this year for his contributions to the city. He then received the Lifetime Achievement award at Birmingham’s Legacy Centre of Excellence. This portrait is the latest tribute to Levi and his inspirational poetry. He has released five collections in his career. The Windows Project published his first collection, Duboetry, in 1987, so it seemed a fitting tribute for them to collaborate on this project.
The Windows Project is a creative writing charity which Levi has worked for since 1982. A group of poets and writers created the charity in 1976 to introduce marginalised groups to ‘the power of language as a creative tool.’ They support writers across Merseyside with professional advice and run educational sessions. The Project also publishes work in booklets and through their Smoke magazine.
Planning stage: the what and the where
In July, we were told an anonymous donor wanted to commission the street art close to Jamaica Street where the Bob Marley statue was situated. Levi Tafari unveiled the statue back in 2021 as part of the Positive Vibrations festival. This new mural would act as a connection between the poet and his hero.
The brief we received was for a high wall, perhaps on a side street with visibility from Jamaica Street. We wanted to make it happen in the Baltic Triangle area, due to the already budding street art scene and close proximity to Liverpool 8. We eventually identified a wall that fit the bill at the end of 22 Jordan Street. Street art has never appeared on this particular wall, so we thought it was about time to change that. With the suggestion of a plaque to commemorate one of Levi Tafari’s poems, the project was good to start.
Ironing out the details
We were initially asked to keep the project anonymous as a surprise for Levi. The Windows Project would collaborate with us to make it happen and Paul Curtis was named as the local street artist. Paul’s work is well-known in the Baltic Triangle area already. Both the wings on Jamaica Street (For All Liverpool’s Liver Birds) and his Abbey Road mural on Grafton Street provide popular photo opportunities for tourists and locals alike.
For the plaque, we chose ‘Shape Your Destiny’ by Levi Tafari (2000) because of its inspirational and hopeful message. In the final stanza, Levi reminds us all we have ‘one life, one aim, one opportunity.’ Local printers, AB Screenprint, enshrined the poem on a plaque with a swirling black and white design.
With all the details in place, the unveiling ceremony was planned for Friday 1st September. Paul Curtis would complete the portrait in two days, working secretly to avoid the public seeing the mural.
The grand unveiling
Thankfully the sun was shining last Friday at the event which attracted a crowd of people to the corner of Jordan Street and Jamaica Street. In attendance were family and friends of Levi as well as local Baltic Triangle businesses and occupiers.
After an introduction from Lynn Haime, CEO of Baltic Creative, Dave Ward of the Windows Project gave a background to their work with Levi Tafari, before handing over to the man himself to unveil the new artwork. After a dramatic tear-down of the curtain, Levi treated the crowd to a performance of three of his poems. Afterwards, attendees visited District Liverpool for celebratory drinks and refreshments.
Afterwards, Levi Tafari told the Echo:
Someone especially loves me, it’s amazing and I’m eternally grateful. It’s been a bumper year; I’ve had the Liverpool Citizen of Honour and Lifetime Achievers awards and now a poem in the Baltic region between Bob Marley and Jurgen Klopp. Both are a love of mine, as I am a Liverpool fan and I love Bob and reggae music. We come here to spread love, we come here to spread unity. People forget the word Scouse means stew. A stew is an eclectic mix of ingredients and Liverpool is a cultural stew, with people from all over the world.
Speaking at the event, Dave Ward of the Windows Project said this work would celebrate a Liverpool poet and put Liverpool poetry back on the streets where it came from. Lynn Haime added that Baltic Creative helped this happen to support the arts and creativity; and to add a new work of street art which can be enjoyed by visitors to the area.
The entire Baltic Creative team was honoured we could help make this happen. We would like to thank The Windows Project, Paul Curtis, and the anonymous donor… Whoever they may be! You can find Levi’s mural at the corner of Jordan Street and Jamaica Street. It will be in place for the foreseeable future.
Finally we would like to thank Levi Tafari for his words and his commitments to creativity, culture and the city of Liverpool.