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Vibrant street mural beautifies a once-dull strip in Tribeca

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The work by Imani Shanklin Roberts honors iconic South African artist Esther Mahlangu

The new mural by Imani Shanklin Roberts honors South African artist Esther Mahlangu.
Eric Townsend

The Citi Bike station at Franklin Street and West Broadway in Tribeca just got a whole lot more colorful. On Wednesday, the city will officially unveil a new street mural by Imani Shanklin Roberts honoring South African artist Esther Mahlangu. The work is part of a month-long partnership between South African Tourism and Citi Bike with the Department of Transportation, but fortunately for New Yorkers, the permanent mural will outlast the month-long affair.

The mural, called XOLA, was installed over the past weekend and made in the style of Ndebele house painting by Shanklin Roberts. The mural emulates artist Esther Mahlangu’s style “while folding in divine feminine symbolism which is representative of [Shanklin Roberts’s] own work.” A description of the work continues, “Vibrant colors and feminine symbolism are used to call on onlookers to tap into their feminine strength, fullness and inner light.”

Progress on the mural and the finished work was captured by photographer Eric Townsend from his nearby office window. Townsend says he’s been watching how people interact with the piece over the last few days. “What struck me ... was how many people took interest in it and the way they interact with it now that it's complete,” he writes to Curbed.

“People tend to use the ‘cross walk’ design to walk on, and people step only on the black parts of the mural as to not tarnish the color or white sections.”

Shanklin Roberts, for her part, seems enthusiastic about the reception to the piece, writing on Instagram, “When beautiful people in one of Manhattan's most expensive neighborhoods capture and appreciate your African x Feminine powered piece enough to track its progress from work & home windows—you have to remain affirmed that your purpose and language is powerful!”