12:02pm Saturday 4th January 2014
By Chris Warne
A TALENTED graffiti artist has spray-painted a black and white mural depicting the late South African leader Nelson Mandela under a bridge in South Woodchester.
The impressive monochrome portrait appears to have been created as a tribute to the anti-apartheid activist and former ANC president who passed away early last month.
Located underneath the road bridge at the Nailsworth end of South Woodchester, the vivid artwork portrays an elderly and thoughtful looking Mr Mandela, whose silhouette radiates out from the surrounding darkness.
It was spotted by SNJ reader Roger Poulton, 76, who likened the anonymous artist’s work to the famous stencils produced by Banksy, the widely celebrated and critically acclaimed Bristol-born graffitist.
Mr Poulton, who lives in South Woodchester, first saw the mural on Christmas Day whilst he was out walking with his wife Barbara.
He is adamant that the recently spray-painted portrait of Mr Mandela deserves to be recognised as art, not graffiti, and hopes it will be allowed to remain in place.
“It is really an artwork of great merit,” he said. “How the artist has done it with a couple of cans of spray-paint in damp, cold, windy conditions I just don’t know. The man is little short of a genius.
“Most people of my age, I’m in my late 70s now, will tend to look at it with a bit of disdain but this picture is inspired. It really is staggering.”
Mr Poulton, who has seen a police community support officer inspecting the work, said he did not know the identity of the artist, but he hoped he would not get in trouble.
“I greatly admire him and you have got to be sympathetic to the council but I think it would be a shame if it was removed. It is off the beaten track and in my opinion I actually think it does a lot to enhance the concrete.”
Dozens of people in Stroud signed books of condolence in the wake of Mr Mandela’s death last month and a musical tribute was also held in the town to commemorate the life of the 1993 Nobel-peace prize winner.
Mr Poulton believes the latest artistic effort to mark the passing of Mr Mandela is a fitting tribute to the iconic leader who is widely credited with averting a civil war in South Africa after the overthrow of the apartheid system.
“Nelson Mandela stood up in those days of prejudice,” he said. “Despite all the war, misery, and suffering going on in this sad world, there is a man who had suffered more than most and he was still able to forgive his oppressors.
“It just goes to show the measure of the man. He stood out like an absolute beacon.”
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