This mural by Zulu Painter, titled Wisdom, Growth, Progress, is on the southwest corner of 9th Street South and 7th Avenue South.
The mural wraps around the north and east sides of the building. The north side measures 15 feet high and 45 feet wide. The east side is 15 feet high and 75 feet wide.
The background is black. It features four faces, rising out of a dense, abstract pattern of colorful bars, circles, squares and triangles – and clusters of pointed white flowers with gold centers.
The faces are realistic but idealized, more like a graphic novel than a photograph. Light glints off their foreheads, chins and cheekbones.
On the right side of the north wall, is the face and shoulders of the poet Maya Angelou, wearing a green shirt and hat. Her eyes are closed, her mouth open as if she’s reciting a poem. Flowers flow across the bottom of the image.
She’s turned to the east, to our left. From her eye flows an expanding series of lines in pinks, purples, reds and blues, like a signal that extends through the rest of the mural. Just to her left, over a door in the wall, is a blue bird in a pink cage, a reference to Angelou’s most famous poem.
A spread of flowers leads to an orange and black checkerboard pattern on the bottom left, with black and hot pink stripes above.
Just around the corner, on the wall that faces east, is the smiling face and shoulders of a boy. His brown skin and close-cropped hair melt into the orange checkerboard on the right. His shirt is made of three-dimensional white and grey cubes. He’s smiling, looking up and to the left, toward the woman’s face across the wall. They’re separated by a cluster of white flowers toward the bottom of the mural, and pink, red and black vertical bands dotted with gold, blue and green circles.
To the left of the boy, in the center of the wall, a young woman’s face is framed by deep blue and purple bands. Around her collar is a scarf made of three-dimensional black and grey cubes. Where her shoulders would be are large orange circles.
Her hair flows to the left. A large green circle and a larger yellow circle hug her left cheek. Her skin is brown, lit by the light, and her closed lips are glossy, with dark pink lipstick. She looks out at the street thoughtfully.
To her left is another spread of white flowers with gold centers, and an abstract pattern of teal and black triangles.
On the far left of the mural is a woman in profile, facing the other two figures. Her eyes are closed and she seems to be speaking. Her hair is black, filled with colorful galaxies. Around her neck like a scarf are the black and white cubes – but as they trail into the galaxies in her hair, the sides are inscribed with hearts.
The work of the bold and prolific ZuluPainter is found across the country, and especially in The Deuces neighborhood of south St. Pete.
ZuluPainter explains that, “The idea behind the mural is one of shared knowledge, learning and continuing this cycle of nurturing future leaders so they can break barriers and help society grow in a positive way.
“The mural reads from right to left. Maya Angelou speaks directly to everyone in need of encouragement and experience-based wisdom, in order to grow as contributing members of the COMMUNITY. The youth receive this information and grow into knowledgeable, empathic young adults.
“Now the cycle becomes complete as the young lady on the left utilizes what she’s learned to shatter the ‘Glass Ceiling.’ She can now repeat the process and send this LOVE back into the universe and help the next generation grow. ‘Each one, teach one’ is how we can all heal the world.”
ZuluPainter’s Wisdom, Growth, Progress mural is part of the SHINE Festival’s “Bright Spots” program, adding art to neighborhoods.