South Berkeley residents gathered at 3163 Adeline St. on Thursday morning, eagerly anticipating the unveiling ceremony of a mural by local artist and Berkeley resident Doran Dada.
Dada’s piece entitled, “God Shu on his Flying Chariot” is a masterful ensemble of colors and stylized shapes that pay homage to the Egyptian God Shu, while incorporating elements from the Native American culture and land it resides on.
“Sometimes when a culture gets to the end and it doesn’t know where to go, you look back for inspiration to see where did it go right, so that’s what I did, I looked back to a time when things seemed to be in harmony,” Dada said.
Dada coined the term “Egyptian Wonderland” to describe his style of artwork that combines the elements of hieroglyphs, sacred geometry and folk art patterns to celebrate African history and culture. Dada said one of his goals for the mural was for Black people to see themselves and their history portrayed in a positive and colorful light as they pass by.
Ben Bartlett, Berkeley vice mayor, worked in partnership with Dada to find a location for the mural and commission the piece. During the ceremony, Bartlett commended Dada’s “genius” in capturing the essence of reinvention and reclamation that the mural exudes.
“Where we are now, none of it is ours,” Bartlett said. “It was handed to us by someone else, their story has been forced upon us as our story so what we have to do is create our own story, our own gods, our own legends, our own beauty and our own power.”
After months of searching for a site for the mural, Dada stumbled upon the ideal spot — a south-facing wall of the LACIS Museum of Lace and Textiles warehouse, a longstanding, family-operated textile arts center just a few blocks from the Ashby BART station and the Berkeley/Oakland border.
Once he received an endorsement letter from the city council to begin the piece, Dada approached the museum’s director, Jules Kilot, to ask if he could use the wall. The two have been in collaboration since.
“It’s been an amazing process working with Jules,” Dada said. “There’s definitely some magic and synchronicities that are unexplainable.”
Several other city council members spoke at the unveiling, including Councilmember Sophie Hahn of District 5, who thanked Dada for his contribution toward the “beautification of Berkeley,” a goal among community and council members alike to install more artwork to visually rejuvenate the city.
“Thank you so much for your work, Doran. We’ll be looking for other walls, I promise,” Councilmember Kate Harrison of District 4 said in closing.