Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham's Bromford estate inspires 'dream cube'

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Media captionJosh Deakin is one of the local youths working on the project

An artist who has worked with divided communities across the world has returned home to work with young people on a Birmingham estate.

Mohammed "aerosol" Ali is painting a large-scale mural with young unemployed men on the Bromford estate.

The 12ft-high Bromford Dreams cube will depict the thoughts of those living on the estate.

Project leader Dr Chris Shannahan said the images were both "disturbing and profound".

It is due to be unveiled at the Bromford youth centre on Saturday.

Dr Shannahan said it was designed to bring the community together and give a voice to a group "at the same time both ignored and stereotyped".

"They're painting gritty, potentially disturbing images of power and powerlessness.

"The tower blocks, described by one guy as 'slums in the sky' are there, and images of joblessness. But there's also positive values and images," he added.

On Wednesday, Prince Charles launched a Prince's Trust initiative to recruit 300 young people as "job ambassadors".

Youth unemployment stands at a record high in the UK, with more than one million 16 to 24-year-olds without a job.

'Isolated' community

All those painting the Bromford cube fall within that age group and Dr Shannahan said the artwork was as much inspired by experiences of unemployment as those of the local area.

"Something one of the guys said to me really hit home. He said 'I believe in God, but he doesn't live here'," the research fellow in urban theology at the University of Birmingham said.

He added that Bromford was a predominantly white estate and, like many other estates, felt isolated.

"We took the group down to Ali's gallery in Sparkbrook, which is much more multi-cultural.

Image caption Similar "dream cubes" have also been painted in Oman and Sweden

"It must be only about five or six miles away, but it might as well have been another part of the universe."

The Bromford artwork is the latest in a line of "dream cubes" led by Mr Ali.

He has painted street art in cities such as Oman, New York, Chicago, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, as well as across Birmingham.

"We have problems in our society, we see divided communities. It's time to inject some creativity into our efforts when dealing with these issues," he said.

The project has been funded by Arts Council England, The University of Birmingham and Worth Unlimited, a Christian charity.

The completed cube is due to be unveiled on Saturday.

It is also later expected to go on display in other locations around Birmingham, including Centenary Square, the university, and at the city's museum and art gallery.

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