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ANNEAR TO THE GROUND

Mural of ‘Black Panther’ star Chadwick Boseman graces Cambridge’s Graffiti Alley

‘The beauty of art is it can respond to crisis quickly . . . ’

A mural of "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman appeared in Cambridge's "Graffiti Alley" this week.
A mural of "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman appeared in Cambridge's "Graffiti Alley" this week.Erin Clark / Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

A piece of Wakanda has arrived in Central Square.

A mural of the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who played the character Black Panther in the blockbuster superhero film of the same name, appeared in the Cambridge neighborhood’s Graffiti Alley this week, just days after Boseman died following a battle with cancer.

The large tribute to the actor, painted by the well-known local street artist Brandalizm, includes a portrait of Boseman’s face, back-to-back with an image of a snarling black panther’s head. Just above the animal is a likeness of Boseman donning the famed Black Panther suit the character wears in both the comics and the record-breaking film.

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A shining crown, halo, and the years of Boseman’s birth and death — 1976-2020 — float just above the main portion of the portrait in the tiny alleyway, which connects to Massachusetts Avenue.

The Central Square Business Improvement District shared pictures of the artwork on social media Wednesday.

“Legends never die in Central Square,” the neighborhood group wrote. “Wakanda forever.”

Besides his role as T’Challa, king of Wakanda, Boseman also starred as Jackie Robinson in 2013′s “42″ and James Brown in 2014′s “Get on Up.” The actor has been hailed as a cultural icon for his work both on and off the big screen.

So-called Graffiti Alley — officially named Richard B. Modica Way — is a staple of the neighborhood, a place where artists have free rein to decorate the walls of the tight passageway with tags, murals, and other works of art, mostly created with spray paint.

Often, the artwork reflects what’s happening in the world. A mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bloomed on the walls around the civil rights leader’s birthday in January. Later that month, an image of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, appeared after they were killed in a helicopter crash in California.

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The latter was also done by Brandalizm, after the Central Square BID reached out to him about creating the piece.

Michael Monestime, executive director of the group, said that this time, however, the artist acted alone.

“Brandalizm strikes again,” Monestime said by phone. “The beauty of art is it can respond to crisis quickly, in terms of conversation and context. And here we have this artist who responded to something.”

Monestime said he stumbled on Brandalizm, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, painting the mural earlier in the week. He said a large group at one point had formed around the artist at work.

“People were stopping and talking with him and celebrating the fact that he did that work and put that up,” he said.

Monestime said that both Boseman and his role as Black Panther have inspired many people, especially those in the Black community. The tribute is large, just like Boseman’s presence had been.

“We had this character who was bigger than the character he portrayed, and that level of hope really manifested in him,” he said. “He was a hell of a humanitarian and a hell of a mentor. He was a hell of a human.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.