Street artist unveils his latest work in project to celebrate London’s migrants

A London street artist and former secondary school teacher has unveiled his latest painting in a series celebrating the work of the capital’s migrants.

Neequaye Dsane , who paints under the name Dreph, revealed the third part of his Migration series in Wardour Street, Soho, before embarking on a national tour with his work.

The stunning image depicts Fatima Najm, co-founder of human rights organisation Creatives Against Poverty.

Ms Najm has spent the last 11 years visiting marginalised communities in Asia, Africa and North America to teach comedy, theatre, art and music in a bid to combat the effects of conflict and trauma.

The campaigner, who moved to London from Pakistan, has been hailed an “unsung heroine” by Mr Desane.

She sits on the Prince’s Trust education panel offering advice on unlocking the potential of young refugees and asylum seekers.

Street artists Neequaye Desane paints in Brixton (Neequaye Desane)

Through his latest collection of street art Mr Desane aims to tell the stories of first generation migrants who have made a home in the capital and “embody the spirit of their community”.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the project, Mr Desane, originally from Ghana, said: “After Brexit, and with the national conversation around immigration, I have been inspired to show the human face, and tell the stories of individuals, from the communities that make up the UK’s diverse immigrant population.”

Neequaye Desane paints under the name Dreph (Neequaye Desane)

Following the completion of his third piece, the artist will travel across the UK painting murals in the likes of Newcastle and Nottingham.

Working in partnership with Southwark’s Migration Museum he will hold an open call-out for anyone who believes themselves, a friend or family member would be a suitable subject.

The first image painted as part of the project features Brixton Market stalwart Michael John. 

An image of Michael Johns was painting next to Brixton Market (Nequaye Desane/Dreph)

Mr John moved to London from Grenada in 1986 to join his pregnant partner.

He was handed the keys to the market by Lambeth Council in 2016.

The huge mural of Mr John is painted on a wall next to the entrance of Brixton Village.

An mural in Soho features British-Morroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj (Neequaye Desane)

Mr Desane praised his subject’s “commitment and generous spirit” delivered through his work as caretaker of the market.

He said: “Michael is an integral part of the market community and without him the market wouldn’t function.

“There has been a lot of change in Brixton, as there has been across the capital, in particular with many local residents angry with the gentrification of the area.

“Michael’s presence and sense of responsibility for the community’s wellbeing has been a constant throughout these changes and a reminder of the ‘old’ Brixton.”

Mr Desane’s second subject is British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj dubbed the “Andy Warhol of Morocco”.

Dreph: You Are Enough

1/9 Holly

‘Holly was born and bred in East London, and at the age of 24 her wisdom is beyond her years, in part due to the time she spent working in a care home. She says her time there taught her that ‘things’ and outer beauty eventually fade’.
Commercial St, London E1 6BD

2/9 Mimi

‘She is an influencer. When I first met Mimi, what struck me was her youthful energy, free spirit and outlandish style.’
Southey St, Penge SE20 7JD

3/9 Mel

‘I initially met Mel at a cultural event in the mid 90’s. She is a beautiful soul whose spirit lights up any room.’
St. Georges Walk, Croydon CR0 1YG

4/9 Linett

‘For over 26 years she has quietly influenced change within the UK education system helping staff and students achieve excellence in schools facing significant challenges.’
Somerleyton Rd, Brixton, London SW9

5/9 Tracy

‘My son’s mother. After her studies she spent several years in Jamaica working for an NGO before returning to the UK to work for the probation service. She now works with youths who display harmful sexual behaviour’
Fashion St, London E1 6PX

6/9 Leyla

‘Leyla is a psychotherapist specialising in supporting survivors of sexual abuse. She is a leading international campaigner on female genital mutilation (FGM) and her passion is to empower women and girls.’
Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8WG

7/9 Mary

‘She makes beautiful clothes with a keen eye for detail, and says her work is not motivated by financial gain but simply to make people happy in the smallest possible way when they wear her clothes.’
Star Yard, Brick Lane, London E1 6PU

8/9 Myvanwy

‘Her view is that if everyone mentored one young person there would be dramatically lower incidents of youth suicide and knife crime.’
Star Yard, Brick Lane, London E1 6PU

9/9 Fungai

‘Fungai was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK in 2007. Although she misses her homeland she doesn’t take for granted the position she finds herself in.’
High Rd, London N17 9JF

Mr Hajjaj’s portrait on Virginia Road, in Shoreditch, is close to his shop Larache.

The artist’s colourful photography mixing tradition and pop culture has been exhibited at the V&A, British Museum and Somerset House.

He was born in Larache, a harbour town in northern Morrocco, in 1961 before he moved to London aged 12 to join his father.

The artist told Mr Desane he felt “very much a foreigner” as he grew up in the UK.

Mr Desane said: “He recalls it as being a tough time, where he was unable to speak English and was immersed in a new culture, in a time where London wasn’t as cosmopolitan as it in today.”

He eventually integrated into the growing west London migrant community where he honed his skills as an artist and fashion designer.

Mr Desane previously adorned the capital’s streets with portraits of inspiring black women for his You Are Enough Series.

Anyone wishing to nominate family or friends to feature in the Migration series is invited to a call out at the Migration Museum at 26 Lambeth High Street on June 9.

The event runs from 4pm and 6pm and will give attendees the opportunity to share their stories with the museum.

For more information click here.

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