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Cardiff Character: Amelia Unity

Amelia Unity

The multi-talented graffiti artist, b-girl and spoken word poet partners with the RSPB to protect Welsh wildlife

Amelia bgirl

Amelia ready to jump in the cypher

It’s an icy October night and the village of Tongwynlais is dark and silent. But set back from the main road, the village hall lights are warm, and a lively funk beat echoes from inside.

Cardiff’s small community of breakdancers are here. Among nine men, Amelia Unity isn’t afraid to jump into the centre of the cypher to show off her skill. She’s taller than several of the guys, comfortable in her hoodie and trainers.

This is her place. Amelia has been hooked on hip-hop since hearing Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys at the age of 15. She’s since gone beyond the music, delving into all aspects of hip-hop culture. 

Becoming an artist

The mural in the village hall is her own work; a gorgeous fairy-tale picture smudged in shades of pink and gold. “I used to get in trouble at school for drawing on the walls,” she admits, laughing. “I wrote Milli Munsta with a paw print in the middle. It was like a logo.”

Amelia would find scraps of wood in skips to practice her lettering style. But it wasn’t until moving to Cardiff that she discovered print shop Oner Signs and the city’s ‘graff’ community.

“I started buying paint and going to Hailey Park, the legal place to paint then,” she recalls. “I was in a crew called TLC, with three other women and two guys.”

Painting with intent

Amelia has found that different modes of painting fit a variety of purposes. “Graffiti is a social thing,” she says. “The art is painting in the public sphere and expressing that we all contribute to our environment.”

A recent commission was unveiled at the Senedd to support the RSPB’s We Need Nature campaign. Amelia painted five boards, each visually representing an element of the Welsh environment.

“After Brexit, farming policies will change,” she explains. “The RSPB, WWF and the National Trust are lobbying the government to ensure that what replaces the European policy works in favour of nature.”

Painting on canvas is her format for self-reflection. “I express ideas and thoughts on canvas more than on walls,” she muses. “My mother passed away five years ago and I painted a lot of butterflies, which symbolise transition and change.”

woman breakdancing

Breaking’ it down: Amelia demonstrates a baby freeze

Being a b-girl

Amelia’s involvement in Cardiff’s hip-hop scene goes beyond graffiti. “I started teaching DJing at Cathays Community Centre,” she recalls. “There was a crossover between my class finishing and the b-boys’ training session starting.”

She began breakdancing, helping to establish the Cardiff City Kings jam in 2009. Almost a decade on, she’s organising training sessions, determined to keep the scene alive.

Amelia’s twin daughters, Sofie and Brooke, accompany her to the training session tonight. She hopes they’ll keep up breakdance alongside her.

She believes breakdance is the most accessible element of hip-hop culture for women. “I think it’s because it’s a physical thing,” she explains. “Breaking is more integrated and progressive.”

Whether painting on walls or breakdancing, Amelia has promised herself to always create for the love of her art rather than money. “That’s where it comes from.”

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