New Mural in Brixton Tube Station

Late night tube travellers might have caught a glimpse of the hectic activity in the early hours of this morning, 2 November, as a new mural was installed in Brixton tube station. Officially unveiled today, Italian artist Jem Perucchini’s Rebirth of a Nation will be on view for the next year. It is a richly coloured and detailed composition which reflects Perucchini’s interest in the art of the Italian Renaissance but responds to Brixton – a place shaped by its diverse residents and their histories.

Commissioned as part of TFL’s Art on the Underground series, Rebirth of a Nation challenges the mainstream view of Black British history.

Image by Angus Mill Photography

The four sumptuously dressed figures bathed in sunlight have an almost religious and timeless feel. The image is inspired by the life of the Ivory Bangle Lady, the name given to the occupant of an ancient grave in York dated to around the 4th century. The Ivory Bangle Lady was of North African origin and her grave contained rare objects one of which was an elephant ivory bangle. She was clearly rich and enjoyed a high social status. Other archaeological finds also support the theory that African people had a place in the upper echelons of Roman society, and that early Britain may have been more ethnically diverse than mainstream history suggests. Rebirth of a Nation questions traditional historical narratives and portrays a past and future where Black people are centre stage. It celebrates the long lineage and culture of Black Britons who came before and points towards an equally positive and joyful future.

Artist Jem Perucchini said: “For me, Brixton represents a microcosm of London, a place where the community creates a local focus. The Underground station then acts as the main pivot between the centre and the periphery, the inside and the outside of the city. Working on this project has been very stimulating, not only for the opportunity to see my work reproduced in such a large format, but also because of its location in the heart of Brixton, visible by all its inhabitants and those who pass through it.”

Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground, said: “Jem Perucchini’s sublime work for Brixton Underground station presents an allegorical scene that resonates stylistically with the Early Renaissance, drawing us to a time when religious art played a central role in the everyday fabric of life. The artist’s technical skill in developing such a highly identifiable composition is supported by a conceptual desire to challenge the assumptions of Western art history in considering who is represented, what hierarchies are depicted and whose narrative is privileged. Speaking to the long thread of Black British history in the UK, “Birth of a Nation” continues Art on the Underground’s exploration of contemporary responses to muralism for Brixton station.”