4.07.2012

Citizens of the World Bringing You Political Graffiti Since...Forever


Mural in central Nairobi which states: "Am a tribal leader...they loot, rape, burn and kill in my defense. I steal their taxes, grab land, but the idiots will still vote for me"  Image via Guardian
One thing I've noticed in Chicago: it seriously lacks decent, thought-provoking, political graffiti - and Chicagoans know, we've got enough political ish to complain about. I've long been a fan of politically-infused graffiti (not the stuff that is just tagging - that's not cool); the kinds that make you stop, think, and admire. The only really cool piece of graffiti I've noticed in Chicago was by the place where I got my tattoo and it read: "Nothing is Permanent" - ironically, it looked like it was written in chalk and lasted for months (it's probably still there). However, political graffiti is one thing that many other countries don't lack - especially those with some seriously messed up political systems. I recently read an article in the Guardian and in BBC about political graffiti in Nairobi, and after that I set out on a quest to see what other messages were being sprayed on the walls across the world. This is what I found:

Nairobi, Kenya

"MP's Screwing Kenyans Since 1962" Image via BBC
Boniface Mwangi and a small group have taken to Nairobi's streets in the early morning hours to spray their political messages on walls across the city ahead of the upcoming elections. Mwangi's aim: to urge Kenyan's to vote 'vulture' politicians seen as corrupt and ineffective out of office. A recent Guardian article quoted one of the artists stating:

It's for the cause – revolution. We have to wake people's minds … and a picture is worth a thousand words …If it's not us, it won't be done. We've got the resources, we've got the skills. It's the now. 

They chose to use vultures to depict Kenya's politicians because:

The vulture feeds on the weak, the dead. It's a scavenger.

That's a pretty clever comparison if you ask me. If change is to come to Kenya, people need to realize that their vote counts - even if it sometimes feels like it doesn't with the corruption and bribing that occurs. But the recent Senegal election should be proof that even if voting seems ineffective, it has the opportunity to result in real, productive change. 

And to leave you with another one of the political messages of Mwangi and his crew:

Corporate Kenya join us in speaking against tribal politics. Stop sleeping with the vultures. Middle-class Kenyans get off Twitter and Facebook and do something positive offline. 
Tunis, Tunisia                                                                       

Tunisian Revolution Source: Zoo Project «Les Martyrs»
Found via P.a.P Blog
The Franco-Algerian man responsible for this image and the others which are part of his larger work titled «Les Martyrs», set up a display in Paris depicting Tunisia's revolutionary martyrs who died for their political cause and dreams. As he notes on his website, those who saw his work in Paris often thanked him and praised him, but there were also those who questioned why he depicted the Tunisian martrys. "Who is he, a foreigner, to paint Tunisia's martyrs? What were his interests in Tunisia?". As he notes, his paintings are not of the dead or of posthumous phantom celebrities - instead these paintings serve to represent the goals and dreams of Tunisians. 

Ils font partie de l'avenir, de cet Tunisie que je dessine, s'esquisse sous nos yeux. C'est cette esquisse que je tente de représente. (They are part of the future Tunisia that I draw, they are sketched before our very eyes. This is the sketch that I try to depict [through my paintings])

Melbourne, Australia

"Danger: Inhuman Refugee Policy in Operation" Source: H4NUM4M via P.a.P Blog

Every year, refugees try circumventing the difficult-to-navigate resettlement policies and instead take boats to the nearest safe country - usually the U.S. and Australia. Contrary to the non-refoulement policies in Refugee Law, these asylum seekers are often denied asylum and returned to their country of origin. This piece of graffiti in Melbourne references this illegal act of denying asylum.

Catalonia, Spain

"Ballet Box" "Place Your Votes Here" Source: P.a.P Blog

These are apparently in response to the 2007 municipal elections in Catalonia, Spain.

Harare, Zimbabwe

"Thanks to Mugabe This Money is Wallpaper" Source: Wooster Collective

Due to hyperinflation, Zimbabwe's currency basically became worthless. A Zimbabwean newspaper actually used real money in one of their ad campaigns. Although this isn't really graffiti, I thought this had a cool political message.

Somewhere, USA

"Planet Aid: Clothes, Shoes, BMW's" Source: Rene Gagnon Fine Art via P.a.P Blog


I just thought this put an interesting spin on SWEDOW (Stuff We Don't Want). Clothes and shoes = SWEDOW. BMW's = Stuff We DO Want. As Rene says on her website

Sometimes clothes and shoes just aren't enough.

Location Unknown

"Revolution Starts in the Streets" Source: P.a.P Blog
This really needs no explanation. I just wish I new where this was painted. 

Cairo, Egypt

"Your Fear is Their Power" Source: Another Africa

This was tagged during the revolutions in Egypt. As Michael Thorsby states:

Some of the most significant aspects of the Arab Spring have been the methods that dominated the uprising. Peaceful protesters that expressed themselves through rap music, creative satire posted on youtube, an outpouring of art interpreting the unfolding events to the heavy metal bands that performed concerts openly without fearing sudden arrest to name a few.It was the voices of the young, expressing their frustration in a new language that the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt could not understand and therefore could not curb as easily as had been the case in the past. This generation of well educated yet unemployed youth were demanding a future of opportunity instead of certain joblessness.

Cape Town, South Africa

Source: One

And finally, some work coming at you from Cape Town:

Falko Starr is kind of like the Banksy of South Africa — he creates colorful, imaginative and politically inspired street art that adorns sidewalks and buildings — not museum walls.

What’s so interesting about Falko’s work is that it echoes South Africa’s politics and history. He believes that graffiti in Cape Town started as a social cause and emerged out of the sprawling Cape flats, where non-whites were relocated during the apartheid. Falko explains, “a lot of graffiti then had a little political connotation in it. We kind of all just made it up. We were just doing it out of social cause, trying to make a change in our society because it was still apartheid then. (One)

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