“Peace, Water, & Solidarity” Community Mural and Interview with Jules Badoni






Photos by Jules Badoni & Diane Ovalle

Jules Badoni graduated from Arizona State University a few years ago with a degree in American Indian Studies. Since then, he’s dedicated himself to his art, which is inspired by his culture and heritage.

“I’m Dine’ (Navajo), from the Coyote Past clan. I’m from TahChee, which is located on the Navajo Nation in Northern, AZ,” he explains.

Badoni knew that he wanted to start painting murals after graduation. The first mural he painted while attending ASU took him nearly two years to complete, so he also wanted to find a collective of artists to participate and help with the process. Around this time, he enrolled in Navajo artist Steve Yazzie’s painting class at Phoenix College, which is where he met fellow classmate Edgar Fernandez.

“Edgar identifies with his Mayan heritage . . . [he] looks up to artists like the muralistas mexicanos Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco, as well as Frida Kahlo. Personally, I like Diego Rivera’s art, but not the artist, while I like the artist Frida Kahlo, but not the art,” Badoni says.

Both artists shared a desire to represent their heritage while getting their work out into the open, so when Badoni found a wall whose landlord was willing to let them paint, he approached Fernandez and the project was born.


“Edgar and I went to the neighborhood at 16th Avenue and Taylor before starting the mural to talk to people for a few hours. We wanted to know where people were coming from and get the community’s perspective. We decided that we would paint portraits of people that represent peace [and that reflect] the neighborhood’s diversity of cultures,” Badoni explains.

Both he and Edgar contacted friends and other students at Phoenix College to collaborate. Finding artists to help was the easy part. What was difficult was establishing a theme for the mural due to the diversity of everyone involved, as well as securing materials since the project was self-funded by Badoni and through donations. Ace Hardware also donated a few quarts of house paint towards the end.

“All the artists on this community mural project are descendants of Indigenous nations from Latin America and North America. We’re not just painting on a wall, but we are passing on the oral traditions of the community we are painting in. Our process is very much based on the oral traditions. Before banned books there were banned walls.”

The group included portraits and images that can be connected to universal themes of peace, water, and solidarity. Frida Kahlo, Muhammed Ali, Gandhi and other figures ordain the wall while being surrounded by a border of water.

“Water is the common denominator. It connects us all [and the portraits] together,” says Badoni.


The historical figures can be traced to various backgrounds and contexts, but what they all have in common is that they fought for equality and opposed injustice. Water security and the allocation of this resource has long been used as a tool to suppress and divide cultures, nations, and peoples– a reality that Badoni knows all too well.

“Including water in the mural was a given because we live in a desert, but for some reason we keep on building like we have an unlimited supply of water. The cheap water and electricity in southern AZ comes at a high cost for Indigenous nations in Northern Arizona.”

Badoni continues to explain that canals delivering water to Phoenix and surrounding areas are powered by the Navajo Generating Station, which is fueled by coal from the Black Mesa mines. These operations require a tremendous amount of water from the Colorado River, resulting in the depletion of local aquifers. These aquifers have long been used as a source of clean drinking water and are considered sacred by Navajo and Hopi communities who have relied on them since time immemorial.

Today, the battle for this resource continues as state lawmakers pressure Navajo and Hopi tribes to sign over their remaining water rights in an effort to secure rampant metropolitan growth hundreds of miles to the South

Badoni describes the agreement as, “the same old story, the theft of Indigenous resources,” and adds that, “Indigenous peoples would like for Arizonians to be more mindful about their usage of water and think about where their cheap water and electricity come from.”

Artists involved include Jules Badoni, Edgar Fernandez, Ky Thornton, Keisr Munoz, and Ramon Aguirre.

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