You see a different side to Roman Road at night. When the market stalls have been packed away and the shops have been locked up, unlikely pieces of art appear on the shutters. We decided to find out where they came from.
There’s more where these came from (shout out to Mr Bulls, Hiland Coffee, and All in One Bazaar), and the shutter art of the Roman is changing all the time. You can do worse than having a wander after hours. You’ll discover everything from epic graffiti tags to historical murals.
To get you started, here are the stories behind some of Roman Road’s most eye-catching shutter art pieces.
The shutters at Muxima are adorned with a mural of Queen Ana Nzinga, who was a 17th century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms, in what is now Angola. To this day she is celebrated for her diplomatic and military brilliance.
Muxima co-owner Isaac Carlos is of Angolan descent and wanted to celebrate his heritage. ‘I guess it’s part of acknowledging part of our culture, so that people can understand where we’re coming from and what we do,’ he says. ‘In African cultures women have always been respected.’
The mural was painted by local artist Fipsi Seilern, aka Pang, who has also painted a mural on the side of the Bow Bells on Bow Road. The folks at Muxima have known Seilern for years. ‘I just felt it was right for her to do it,’ Carlos says.
The artwork at Jakss was designed in 2011 by Charlie Palline, a school friend of the owners’ son. ‘We’re a children’s clothing store, so we wanted something childlike,’ says Jakss director Shelly Conley. It took a weekend to do and has been largely untouched by graffiti artists in the years since. ‘I think they respect pieces like that,’ Conley says. ‘It suits the area.’
Like its neighbour SNAP, the Pride Tattoo shutter art was a long-standing ambition sparked into life by graffiti. It was painted by a friend of Jay Moon, one of the artists at Pride, and there are plans to jazz it up even more when time allows.
Luminor Sign Co
‘We do what it says on the tin,’ says Luminor Sign Co owner Ged Palmer. ‘For us a business with no sign is a sign of no business. We need to make sure people know we’re in business and we can go paint their business too.’
Have any other shutters on the Roman caught Palmer’s eye? ‘I think the butcher one that just says beef is funny, and it’s got lots of little beefs inside. I like that one, probably because it involves letters.’
Peckover Butchers has one of the most distinctive designs on the road. ‘It’s quite a staple on the road now,’ says shop owner Gavin Peckover. It was painted by an American street artist. ‘He came in and asked if we wanted our shutters done,’ Roberts said. ‘We asked to see some examples of his work then said go for it. It took him a couple of hours.’
The huge ‘BEEF’ may not be long for this world. The council is planning to replace solid shutters with see-through ones (in the Luminor vein) so light from the shops can reach the street in the nighttime. ‘All good things come to and end,’ says Roberts. Here’s hoping it’ll be up for a while yet.
The design at SNAP is a recent addition to Roman Road. ‘The shutters had not been touched since I opened the shop and they had slowly acquired a random selection of tags, which peaked when Nat got herpes,’ says owner Helen Fisher. ‘I could tell you all the obscene things that have been sprayed on there but they wouldn’t make it into the article.’ Alas, she was right.
‘I wanted to do something simpler and a bit more SNAP,’ Fisher says, who painted it herself with a friend. There are cards in the shop that helped inspire the shutter design. ‘It’s a good way of giving people an idea of what you’re about when you’re closed. It makes you identifiable on the street.’ She’s already had plenty of positive comments. ‘I may yet add to it in the same style. At the moment there’s a few too many spaces that are… available.’
E3 Vegan’s shutter resembles something between a heraldic coat of arms and a Jolly Roger … naturally featuring a globe artichoke as the skull and two asparagus spears for the crossbones. Painted by their friends at Dharma Tattoo, the café was keen to have a custom spray that reflects what they’re all about. ‘It’s funky and it doesn’t take itself too seriously,’ says co-owner, Jordan Kaplan. ‘We know the shutter may well be tagged in the future and are fine with this!’
If you enjoyed this piece you may like our gallery about the corner shops of Bow
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