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Take a deep breath in and smell the sea. Look at the boats at bay. The ferry is either pulling in or taking off from the port. The cranes at work in the distance. The sun reflecting off of the water. You see San Francisco in the distance and know you’re in Jack London Square.
Take a moment to make a 360° circle around yourself. What do you see? Palm trees? A 'Let's Go Oakland' decal supporting the Oakland A's? What about the Oakland City Hall? Or the Warriors' old training facility in the distance? Across the water, we see San Francisco. On Alameda Island, we see development. In this 360°, we see a really broad picture of Oakland, but more intricately pictured is the district of Jack London.
During this experience, you're going to have a look into one of the city of Oakland's oldest districts. You know the one that’s named after the author, Jack London? One of Oakland’s most identifiable landmarks? That’s the one.
In 2018, a really special festival happened in Jack London Square, the Oakland Mural Festival, hosted by Visit Oakland in collaboration with Bay Area Mural Festival. During the course of a week, nine new murals were painted around the Jack London district. Where we'll go is to all nine of the murals painted in Jack London.
By Lower Bottoms Collective
Oakland skyline sets the tone. Cool chem trails in the sky read, ”yeee!” Big turf moves coming out of the frame at you! Wow. You’ve officially arrived in Oakland. Can you feel the culture wrapped up in this work? Positioned right across the train tracks is the first image Amtrak riders see as they come and go from the city. This mural was completed by Lower Bottomz Collective, an artist collective composed of @timothybart, @berj.j.berj, @creativeshields and @chuckinglights. The painting is of turfer @icecold3000.
2. Know your Ancestors
Just around the corner from the Turfin mural is the Know Your Ancestors mural. In their latest collaboration, Mike "Bam" Tyau and Jesus Rodriguez pay vibrant homage to their roots. “Besides the Olmec and Chinese motifs as ancestral guardian totems, we painted these to remind people to go to their pillars of support during these trying times,” Mike wrote from the seven-day-long Oakland Mural Festival. With Oakland being a multicultural hub, this mural represents those cultures, especially the Hispanic & Asian communities.
Foliage and mountains encompass two figures, references to the artists' ancestral homelands. For Mike, the leaves of the plants ground the composition with symbols pointing back to Mother Earth.
Can you find the word “BAM” in this mural? What about the monstera leaves (2)?
3. Warmer Waters
This mural was completed by Jack and Alise Eastgate of Eastrand Studios. Prior to painting this wall, the artists had already fallen in love with the location for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the address of this building is 679 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 679 is the Fijian area code, the country that Jack hails from. To the left of the building are a row of magnolia trees. These trees represented Louisiana, the home state of Alise. For these reasons, it felt like home. The gentle ridges of the corrugated metal surface reminded Alise and Jack of ocean waves. That along with the wall’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean led them to imagery connecting to issues of migration and safety for both human and non-human animals.
4. Embassy of the Refugee
By Caleb Duarte
The Embassy of the Refugee mural sits at the intersection of Broadway and 2nd St. This mural was done by Caleb Duarte, an artist that specializes in creating temporary installations. This piece pictures a refugee that’s pushing the city on a shopping cart, implying that refugees are the people that make the city move. To be honest, this piece can hardly be seen today due to defacement and weather wear. Nonetheless, I’d like to encourage you to take a moment and envision what an embassy for refugees could look and feel like.
5. Oakland Dreams
Ahh, the one and only Oakland Dreams mural by Trust Your Struggle Collective. Have you seen the Black Panther movie? If so, think back to the scene when Killmonger died. If not, *spoiler alert.* As he sat on the ledge watching the sun set in Wakanda, he proclaimed "Can you believe that? A kid from Oakland walking around and believing in fairytales." Using this line as inspiration, Trust Your Struggle Collective chose to paint the saying, “Oakland Dreams.”
This wall is dope for so many reasons. It's so colorful. It's so vast. It's so brilliant. Pay attention to the different styles that come together so collaboratively in this piece.
If you take a good look at it from across the street, you can identify the different styles, thus the different artists that participated. See the beautiful bird and the hands? These pieces were painted by Yoshi. The roll down gate next to it was done by Bounce. Finally, the ‘Oakland Dreams’ lettering was done by Nisha Sethi.
If you look at the picture above against the actual mural, you'll notice that the wall looks a little different. Can you pick out three differences between the picture and the wall?
You guessed it - bubbles, clouds, and extra detail was added to the lettering.
6. Earth Sanctuary
Once you’ve finished admiring the Oakland Dreams mural, you'll end up at the Earth Sanctuary mural. The artists that completed this piece are a part of Los Pobres Artistas, an international collective of artists, some hailing from countries in South America. Los Pobres collaborated with students from Oakland International High School to finish this project.
Pictured in this piece is a representation of immigrants on a journey with guiding hands to protect them along the way. In the upper left corner is a Bolivian wiphala, a square emblem commonly used as a flag. Painted to represent todos los pueblos, or all of the people, the colors in the flag represent the pan-indigenous flag of Andean peoples.
7. Cheemah Unity
Just across the street, you’ll see a dark green building, also known as SeaWolf. This bar and eatery was named after the book The Sea-Wolf by Jack London.
On the other side of the building, behind a tall gate, you’ll see a magnificent piece that was completed by artist and activist Susan Green and Art Forces. This mural is based on the bronze Cheemah sculpture in Jack London Square. The original sculpture is a part of an international project by Osprey Orielle Lake “dedicated to celebrating cultural diversity, world unity, and care for the earth.” This same sculpture is placed in Hamburg International Airport in Germany and in Majorca, Spain.
8. Love Letter to Oakland
By David Burke
You’ve officially arrived at the ninth and final mural that was completed during the 2018 Oakland Mural Festival. Love Letter to Oakland was painted by David Burke in collaboration with a number of other artists. This piece took a little longer than the others to finish for the simple fact that instead of aerosol, a traditional painting practice was used. At the center of the piece, you see a visualization of the city of Oakland coupled with the city’s skyline. Hands of multigenerational artists are extended passing on light, knowledge, and tradition onto further generations. This is the love letter to Oakland.
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a treat. Pop into Nido and order the guacamole and chips. Grab a margarita while you’re at it.
Ah, we've arrived on the site of the “Han” mural by Dave Young Kim in collaboration with Erik T. Burke aka OU35, from Reno, California. The following quote was pulled from Dave’s Instagram account, perfectly summarizing the meaning of this mural.
“Korea, being a tiny peninsular country, was invaded and occupied for much of its history. The constant bombardment of conquests left them with a cultural trait passed on for generations, known as ‘han.’ This deeply embedded feeling of unavenged injustice could either be a source of empowerment or a burden or oftentimes both, as passion frequently leads to action. The weight of oppression could crush you or inspire you to rise up and like the rooster traditionally symbolizes, fight til the death. This feeling isn’t unique to Koreans, many have experienced similar things, and have had histories that resemble that of the small Asian country. Starting from the transgressions against the native Ohlone, Oakland has been pushed down throughout its history from the drug epidemic, systemic racism, an onslaught of violence, being the capital of human trafficking at one point, neglected education, rampant poverty, todays gentrification, the list goes on. In the campfire is the idea we find comfort and the strength to carry on in the simple things, and the warmth of community.”
Food in Jack London
This experience was crafted by Jena Dominique, a prominent Bay Area voice and tastemaker. She is a creative entrepreneur that focuses on community and place. As an Airbnb superhost, the founder of StreetSalad.Co, and creator of the Oakland Postcard Scavenger Hunt, Jena is an expert experience curator. From the hyperlocal postcards she photographs, to the StreetSalad walking tours she leads, Jena’s specialty is producing multimedia content and activations that shift the perspective of Oakland. Her combined knowledge of local landmarks, contagious energy, and vibrant self-expression are sure to expand your perspective.
Jena has been designing and leading experiences in Oakland for the past 3 years.