There are those who believe graffiti is an art form and there are those who see it as vandalism. A local city council recently outlawed graffiti and hopes to wipe it all off its province’s walls. If you will excuse the pun (you probably shouldn’t) the writing is on the wall for graffiti artists.
Now, allowance will only be made for so-called ‘mural art’; those who want to make a statement may do so now only with a permit, which is a bit like telling a liberal newspaper they are free to publish stories about the government as long as they leave out all the bits about ministers buying gold-plated Lamborghinis with taxpayer’s money.
That said, you can see where the council is coming from – the difference between graffiti and mural art may be a hair-splitting affair, but it is worthwhile to point out the difference between a teenager writing something rude about his geography teacher in the tunnel at Kenilworth station and a talented artist painting a commissioned work on a chosen location in the city centre.
To offer another queasy pun: Where, indeed, does one draw the line? Does the poem on the toilet door at Cavendish Square, the one about genitalia with the accompanying diagram qualify as mural art?
Graffiti artists are showing a fair bit of restraint already – imagine the torture walking around any city, seeing blank and inviting walls everywhere, itching to cover them with your work. It’s like being a child obsessed with building sandcastles being walked through a beach of fluffy sand holding a bucket and spade and told to keep looking straight ahead. I know this sounds like something that happened to me but it wasn’t. It is purely a coincidence that I now live in a giant sandcastle.
So many important questions, so little space to answer them. In this month’s edition of Extra Virgin we speak to arguably South Africa’s best known graffiti artist, Faith 47, about the new laws and her love of the form, and we choose four of the best videos exhibiting the genius of graffiti art to make a case for its presence, regulated or not.
We get excited about a long overdue release from South Africa’s rock weirdos Blk Jks, and point you in the direction of what will probably soon be your next favourite British band. Unless, that is, your current favourite is Girls Aloud. Our environment expert wonders whether sticking massive mirrors in the sky and dumping rust in the sea will do us more harm than good, and we hear what the big kahunas have been saying about the economy recently. It’s not all bad for a change.