Soul City Arts
Mohammed Ali, the man behind Soul City Arts

On a former industrial estate in Sparkbrook, and just a short walk from rows of terraced houses, grocery shops and cafes, is an inviting, bright green door. Behind it, an empty warehouse has been transformed into a colourful studio space and artistic haven, filled with ambient lighting, murals and Moroccan screens. Home to Soul City Arts, the team are cooking up something special as Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, is back.

The man behind Soul City Arts, and the green door, is Birmingham-born and raised artist, Mohammed Ali. Referred to at times as ‘Aerosol Ali’ or ‘Birmingham’s Banksy’, he’s made his name by painting stencilled street art not just across the Second City but the world, spraying political messages and spiritual murals in places such as Kuala Lumpur, New York, Melbourne and more.

Fusing Arabic script with silhouetted figures and Western graffiti styles, Ali hopes that his artistic interventions will spark important conversations and “bring diverse communities together”. Although he’s travelled the globe with a suitcase full of aerosol cans, nowhere is this more important to him than back at home, in Birmingham.

Soul City Arts
An Iftar dinner for the multi-faith community

In recent years, and from his studio space, Ali has begun to develop his practice beyond two-dimensional, painted artworks. Breaking traditional boundaries and via Soul City Arts, he’s devised more multidisciplinary and participatory events, through which he is committed to using the arts and culture “to create platforms for all to speak”, while “sharing narratives across all faiths and none.”

During the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Birmingham’s Hippodrome hosted the immersive and moving theatrical experience, ‘Waswasa’, which explored the act of Islamic prayer and what that means in a modern, secular society. Audiences were invited to walk through a combination of art installation, live performance and projected film zones that not only disrupted the conventions of theatre, but placed them at the very heart of the story.

Recently installed at the Royal Docks London, meanwhile, ‘Nomad’, offers participants space for refuge and an escape from the daily grind; inside an atmospheric tent, hosts ask audience members a series of thought-provoking questions about what ‘faith’ involves and means today.

These visual, all-encompassing spectacles created by Ali and Soul City Arts do what great art should do – provoke, inspire, and move viewers. This is not art to stand back from, but to engage with. In contrast to museums exhibitions, where quiet awe is expected and upheld, these events are characterised by the sharing of conversation, as well as art.

Soul City Arts

Back in Birmingham, a sharing dinner is also on the menu. On a regular basis, Ali and his team serve up ‘Soul Fire Sundays’ for local audiences. Every three months or so, visual artists paint on bespoke stages against a backdrop of DJ’d soundscapes, while food is provided by guest caterers, bringing together people from different community groups and diverse backgrounds. These events often have a celebratory, festival feel to them.

This idea – that connections can be forged through food and culture – is also behind Soul City Art’s next event, an Iftar which will take place on Thursday 21st March at 5.30pm. The fast-breaking evening meal during Ramadan, the Iftar is a significant moment in the day for Muslims. But, as Ali has stressed, and in true Soul City Arts style:

“This invitation is open to everyone, of all backgrounds and faith, whether fasting or not, to our annual iftar. We celebrate the spirit of Ramadan in our Port Hope warehouse with good food and positive vibes.”

Guest resident Chef Munayam Khan of Raja Monkey Restaurant is preparing an Iftar menu especially for the event, reflective of the theme. The event will also feature art and spirituality along with conversations between people from across the multicultural city. “We try to create alternative spaces that bring people together – art and food is at the heart of what we do”, says Ali.

By breaking the fast, as well as traditional hierarchies between art forms, Soul City Arts is aiming to build stronger, more connected communities in the Second City. Ali’s vision feels more important than ever at a time when we need to join together to make positive social change and support the arts in Birmingham.

Whilst the Iftar is a ticketed event to cover the great food offer, part of the proceeds will go towards the humanitarian organisation Islamic Relief for their various projects. Tickets are available at

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