The King's Land: Artist takes over East London housing estate

An Egyptian born artist has been given permission to take over a semi derelict East London housing estate and cover it with murals. The 8 blocks of postwar flats are more than half empty, and are due to be knocked down later in the year, so artist Nazir Tanbouli approached the Housing Association and asked it he could create a massive mural project there. Tanbouli, who lives locally and has a studio on the estate, felt that the place just looked too grim with its bricked up doors and windows, and wanted to liven it up. The estate has a strict no-graffiti policy, but the artist has already made two popular murals in the area, and the owners agreed to support the art initiative.
Tanbouli came to the UK from Alexandria, Egypt and gained an MA London’s Camberwell College
of Art. In Egypt he had the first ever mural painting crew, as well as practicing fine art.
Tanbouli notes that it was seeing a photo of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s, before he went to art
school, that made him excited about murals. “We didn’t have a graffiti tradition in Egypt, so I have
never been a graffiti artist, but we did of course have a huge mural tradition going back to the
Pharaohs. I wanted to use that energy I saw on the Berlin Wall in a different context. When I started
doing it there, people could not believe it.”

The project is called THE KING’S LAND and depicts a mythical kingdom of strange creatures. It is all hand drawn by the artist, who is funding the project by himself “on zero budget”. The Kingsland estate, off the Kingsland Road, will be covered in murals up till the summer and the plan is to be done by the Queen’s Jubilee. “The estate was completed in the Coronation year 1952” says Tanbouli “and it’ll come down in Jubilee Year 2012. So let’s give it a real send off.” The estate is part of a huge urban regeneration project spearheaded by London and Quadrant Housing Association, which is pulling down neglected substandard council estates in the Haggerston area, and replacing them with new, high quality housing for sale and rent.