Ben’s Chili Bowl Unveils New Mural

by: Lindi Vilakazi Special to the AFRO
/ (Photo by Lindi Vilakazi) /
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Ben’s Chili Bowl is revamping its well-known mural wall.

Like the old mural, the new mural honors various heroes and influences of Black history. Ben’s Chili Bowl teamed up with artist and Washingtonian Aniekan Udofia, and accompanied by his Art Director Mia DuVall, unveiled the newest and — what is intended to be the last — mural on June 21.

The new mural on D.C. institution Ben’s Chili Bowl features Barack Obama, Chuck Brown and Harriet Tubman, among others. (Photo by Lindi Vilakazi)

Udofia created his first Ben’s Chili Bowl mural in 2012, which featured portraits of Bill Cosby, Barack Obama, Chuck Brown, and Donnie Simpson. This year, the mural will showcase 16 portraits, including Harriett Tubman, Prince, Taraji P. Henson, Donnie Simpson, Chuck Brown, Wale, Barack Obama and others.

“I’ve heard a lot of mixed feelings, like most people are like claiming, oh well Prince is not from D.C. It’s not a D.C. wall. It’s a wall that starts with Harriet Tubman and shows you where we’ve come from and where we’re headed and what we’ve achieved. So, I kind of see it like the hero’s journey in a way. Because these people are my heroes,” Udofia told the AFRO.

As a native of D.C., Udofia, who has Nigerian roots, said he grew up with a genuine knowledge and understanding of the District’s culture and influences.

The new mural on D.C. institution Ben’s Chili Bowl features Barack Obama, Chuck Brown and Harriet Tubman, among others. (Photo by Lindi Vilakazi)

“So with this particular piece, I think to date this has probably been the most challenging project,” DuVall said. “Only because they’re 16 portraits, and I think whether the folks on the wall are living or are not with us anymore, there are many, many, many, many people who are invested in their images. So, you know it’s like you want to create something, especially when you just get a list of names, you want to create something that resonates with the people who are actually here. But at the same time with the people who care about the people that are here and the people who have passed on.”

While Udofia and his team worked on the mural for two weeks. They made the final touches to the artwork called “The Torch.”

“As you can see the flag is kind of breaking off of Harriet Tubman’s cape and wrapping around Obama, who happens to be the first Black president. So, her carrying the torch and you see like the whole thing resonating. There is a frequency connecting these people to those people over there,” Udofia said.

Pedestrians and Ben’s Chili Bowl customers have constantly stopped to view the mural and take pictures throughout the process.

“I like it. I think it encompasses African American culture. You have artist like Chuck Brown, Taraji, Wale. I think it’s a good representation of what D.C. is in terms of current artists, but at the same time it reflects our history,” D.C. resident Tamika Gittens told the AFRO.

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