After repeated obscenities were scrawled on the face of the beloved New Zealander near Brick Lane, the artist added a note saying, ‘This is a portrait of a kiwi film director Taika Waititi NOT Jose Mourinho YOU MUPPET!!!’ And now he’s thinking he’ll paint over it altogether
Taika Waititi might be world-famous in New Zealand, but it seems some British football fans might need their memories jogged.
A mural of the director’s face in London’s painfully trendy Shoreditch district has repeatedly been defaced with slurs apparently aimed at the polarising former manager of Chelsea and Manchester United, José Mourinho.
The mural was painted on Redchurch Street in March by the street artist Woskerski, paying tribute to one of his favourite film directors. But his faithful depiction of Waititi’s trademark raised eyebrow and unbuttoned print shirt have not been enough to distinguish the director of Thor and Eagle Versus Shark from the histrionic Portuguese football manager.
“I was really happy about the portrait and the way it all came out,” says Woskerski. “Obviously someone else wasn’t in agreement with me.”
The mural has been defaced four times in the six weeks since it was completed, he says – the most he’s ever experienced in his career. “I’ve spent more time fixing it than actually designing it in the first place.”
When, in March, a photograph of an “X” spray-painted across Waititi’s face was brought to his attention on Twitter (“someone clearly doesn’t appreciate this epic @TaikaWaititi mural”), the director replied: “I’m getting that big X tattooed on my face tomorrow so in your face graffiti dude! I win!”
Jemaine Clement, meanwhile, joked that it was self-sabotage. “Taika probably did this.”
Most recently, “PEDO” has been written across Waititi’s smooth forehead, and “HAHA” scratched in crude capitals across the bridge of his nose. His moustache reads simply: “CUNT”.
@TaikaWaititi did you know there is a beautiful mural of you in Shoreditch London? What a tribute! Unfortunately I think some people have been mistaking your face for that of Jose Mourinho according to some of the slurs that have been added.. 😳😄 #thatsnotjose pic.twitter.com/XvymDewlQR
— TALI – MC/freestyler (@TALITHE1STLADY) May 9, 2019
Woskerski was first made aware of Waititi’s apparent resemblance to Mourinho after the mural was first vandalised in late March. While he was undoing the damage, several passersby identified the person pictured as Mourinho.
“I’m not into football, I had no idea what Mourinho was, but I thought if more than one person says ‘José Mourinho’, there must be something to it,” says Woskerski. “So I went and Googled and, well. They’re remotely lookalike. I wouldn’t say it’s him.”
After the mural was defaced a third time, Woskerski felt moved to add a clarification: “This is a portrait of a kiwi film director Taika Waititi NOT Jose Mourinho YOU MUPPET !!!”
He had hoped that might be enough to dissuade vandals, he said, what with “football being a touchy subject in this country”.
But with the mural subsequently damaged for a fourth time, Woskerski intends to paint over it in the coming weeks. “I know very well its fate if I go and fix it again.”
That Waititi responded to the vandalised mural “made it even worse”, he said. “I wanted him to see it, obviously – but not in that state.”
Woskerski said he came to know and love Waititi’s work after spending time in New Zealand. “I just really appreciate his sense of humour, the work he does.”
He singled out The Hunt for the Wilderpeople as one of his favourite films, and said that he had wanted to paint a mural of Julian Dennison as Ricky (“where he’s got his little warrior paint on his face”) on his last visit to New Zealand.
“Maybe I will at some point. At least there he won’t be defaced.”