Birmingham mural to celebrate legacy of poet and activist Benjamin Zephaniah

Launch of Benjamin Zephaniah Mural
Launch of Benjamin Zephaniah Mural Copyright Black Heritage Walks Network
Copyright Black Heritage Walks Network
By Elise Morton
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A tribute to poetry giant Benjamin Zephaniah will be unveiled on 14 April in the UK’s second city, Birmingham.


Legendary poet, writer, actor and campaigner Benjamin Zephanian will be immortalised in a vibrant mural celebrating his life and work this weekend. The artwork will be unveiled in a ceremony at Handsworth Park – the area of Birmingham where Zephaniah was born and raised – on 14 April. 

The mural was commissioned by Black Heritage Walks Network (BHWN), who describe the artwork as a celebration of Zephaniah as “The People’s Champion”.

Artist Bunny Bread, founder of the Create Not Destroy collective and best known for his graffiti art, finished the work in March.

“Benjamin really stood for the people; when you listen to his music and his poetry, his causes were always in front of him. In a time where people are about getting followers and likes, he was always about the cause and the people,” Bunny Bread told BHWN.

Zephaniah died in December 2023 at the age of 65, a mere eight weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. His wife, Qian Zephaniah, recently took to social media to thank his fans for their condolences since her husband's death.

He was most famous for his “dub poetry,” performed to music or a beat, often drawing on the rhythms of reggae. Much of Zephaniah’s work explored his lived experiences of racism, time in prison and his Jamaican heritage, while veganism and animal rights were also central to his activism. A self-described anarchist, Zephaniah famously rejected an OBE due to the honour’s link with the British Empire and its history of slavery.

Launch of Benjamin Zephaniah Mural
Launch of Benjamin Zephaniah MuralBlack Heritage Walks Network

Zephaniah moved to London in his 20s, where he published his first poetry collection ‘Pen Rhythm’ in 1980. Over his life, he went on to publish 14 poetry collections, five novels, a non-fiction biography of Mona Baptiste, five children’s books, seven plays, among many other works.

Alongside his writing work, Zephaniah has recorded extensive music, including seven studio albums. He also acted, most notably as recurring character Jeremiah Jesus in the BBC series ‘Peaky Blinders’.

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