Enigmatic Birmingham street artist Foka Wolf has produced a giant poster tribute to a living legend of Small Heath who is recognisable to generations of Brummies.

The new artwork, pasted up in Digbeth on Wednesday (1st December), is an affectionate and celebratory tribute to a much loved and charismatic character known as “mad” Malik from Small Heath.

The large-scale monochrome poster is the work of a secretive Birmingham street artist and working-class activist known as Foka Wolf, an anonymous urban creative whose material is often compared to Banksy in its scathing but hilarious socio-political observations.

Foka Wolf’s material always generates interest, and sometimes stirs up headlines in both local and national news, and this latest work will undoubtedly whip up lots of conversations as people share their memories about a living Birmingham legend who is seen as the unofficial mascot of Small Heath.

The star of Foka Wolf’s new pasteup is a true Birmingham icon and his name is well known throughout the Midlands. Affectionately known as “mad” Malik by Brummies he has been a part of the Small Heath and Bordesley Green landscapes for generations.

Since the 1980’s Malik has been dancing in the streets, in all weathers, and waving to pedestrians and motorists as he jives and smiles to locals. In the early days he would often be spotted clutching his Walkman stereo and dancing to some Bollywood tunes and if anyone mentioned the name of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan it would absolutely perk up Malik.

Birmingham street artist Foka Wolf's tribute to a Small Heath iconFoka Wolf
Birmingham street artist Foka Wolf’s tribute to Small Heath icon Malik

Malik’s sheer passion for dance and life, and his joyous eccentricity, have warmed people’s hearts over the decades, and people will often pause for a moment from the daily hustle and bustle when they see Malik. His exuberance and zest for life have touched people from all walks of life, and his infectious and charismatic personality transcends barriers of race, faith and age.

Whenever a photo of Malik is shared across a social media platform there’s an instant wave of love as people share memories. Malik is recognised and celebrated beyond Small Heath and Bordesley Green, his legend goes beyond the borders of Birmingham and travels north, south, east and west. Some of the people sharing their positive memories about Malik live as far away as Texas or Tokyo. These individuals may have emigrated to other countries but Malik continues to dance and smile in their hearts and minds.

In a city that has been enriched and strengthened by the contribution of immigrants and migrants, and refugees, Foka Wolf’s poster proudly celebrates a Birmingham resident who is a part of the story of this beautiful and diverse city. This tribute to Malik also acts as a tribute to the people and the spirit of Birmingham.

In dark times, as a global pandemic causes havoc and paranoia, and racism fuels division and violence, and the cost of living rises dramatically and more individuals become homeless, art offers people a glimmer of hope and light during uncertain times.

Malik’s beautiful and positive outlook, to seize and embrace each day, and to smile and savour the precious moments, is an inspiration to all of us.

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