Two Cardiff creatives have teamed up with an international sportswear brand to showcase the city's ethnic diversity.
'My Cymru, My Shirt' is a photo-series project created by Yusuf Ismail and Shawqi Hasson, creative directors and photographers from Butetown.
The pair worked with adidas London on the project which uses the Wales shirt to celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity.
This year's Euros-inspired project comes off the back of 'My City, My Shirt'.
The original project was launched last year after Yusuf, a regular at Cardiff City stadium, noticed a lack of ethnic diversity at the matches despite the stadium being based in a multicultural neighbourhood, the artist said.
“I was thinking about it and just thought ‘there’s something off about this’ - so I just wanted to basically address that question, address my concerns using art and creativity and use that shirt, basically to showcase the multiculturalism of Cardiff, and in particular, minority communities in Cardiff.”
In October 2020, ‘My City, My Shirt’ gained international traction when it was shared on social media by the popular football media platform, Copa90.
In March 2021 the project gained further momentum, as well as the attention of one of the world’s leading sports brands following the construction of a giant mural in Butetown, Cardiff.
Situated a stone’s throw away from Cardiff Bay Police Station, at a time where tensions were high following the death of Mohamud Hassan and the protests that followed in January, the mural was created in the hope of bringing people together.
“There was a lot of that energy still lingering in the air, a lot of anger, a lot of confusion, a lot of hurt - and just to create something like that, to uplift people, was probably the most surreal experience of my life.”
After the success of the 'My City, My Shirt' campaign, adidas London reached out to the pair ahead of the Euros, Yusuf describes.
“The guy who I’m working for got in touch with us and said, ‘I’m asking about the Euros, we think it would be a great opportunity for you to do something, do you think you can do it?’
"Initially we were a bit hesitant, we had 4 days to work - that’s extremely tight. I told him like, for example, a previous proposal that we showed the FAW was like 4-6 weeks worth of prep. But, we thought, you know what? This is needed, the work is super necessary, so we went to work and just did it.”
Gabin Kongolo, a fellow creative from Cardiff, was approached by Yusuf and Shawqi to feature in their work. Gabin acknowledged the importance of the message that they were trying to convey, so for him, it was an easy decision to jump on-board.
“When they proposed the idea to me, it was a no-brainer as I’m such a huge fan of their work.
"We [people of colour] are a part of the culture here in Wales. Other people from different places always say 'I didn’t know black/brown/minorities lived in Wales' but we are here and it’s important to me that this is highlighted.
"And what bigger place to do it with the Euros ongoing & Cymru being a part of it.” explains Gabin.
And despite ‘My Cymru, My Shirt’ having a far greater platform than Yusuf and Shawqi’s initial ‘My City, My Shirt’ project, the message remains the same, as Yusuf explains.
“What I want is someone of colour to look at that project and say ‘Wales accepts me for who I am”, you know? It’s a case of acceptance, it’s a case of identifying with what Wales is all about - so that flag, that dragon should mean something to you. You’re welcome here, you belong here - Wales has opened its arms to you.”
Although the collaboration with the sporting giant is in its early stages, and with big plans of a rollout that they cannot reveal just yet, Yusuf says there is plenty more in store for their project.