When graffiti is committed
Political denunciations through graffiti have always existed. Disagreements with the world’s undemocratic regimes and systems are indeed often denounced on the walls. Graffiti is evidence of social, political or protest commitment and is often the fastest means of expression in countries under oppressive totalitarian regimes.
There are usually high risks in drawing graffiti on walls. Thus, writers and artists have to move quickly to mark one’s protest. The messages conveyed are therefore strong and direct and are intended to awaken people’s consciences.
Protestant graffiti in the 20th century
The Movimiento Muralista Mexicano, a movement that identified with the Mexican Revolution of 1910, worked to revitalize local culture that had been violently repressed since colonial times. The movement has painted messages from the struggles against the Mexican regime in the early 1920s.
In 1973 in Chile, groups such as the Ramona Parra Brigade or the Agrupación de Aristas Plásticos Jóvenes (APJ) produced paintings with slogans of protest against Pinochet’s dictatorship. During that period of strong repression, they have been taking every risk to alert the people on the totalitarian grip of power.
Et les graffitis dénonciateurs au XXIème siècle
Graffiti accompany the great movements of the contemporary era. They are part of all protest actions. They are present during the second world war, as during the May 68 revolution in France.
They can be found on the walls of Cancun, Bethlehem, Belgrade or Manila, colourful, imposing and visible.
They are used by demonstrators from all over the world and are a quick and visual expression of their discontent. Whatever the cause defended, graffiti and murals illustrate the struggle. The advent of social networks has recently made it possible to amplify their reach and increase their visibility to the widest audience.
More recently, during the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the country’s youth expressed their political disagreement on the walls of their cities with paintings, posters and graffiti. At the same time, young people in Libya painted their rejection of Gaddafi.
Lastly, the large demonstrations that appeared in 2020 in the United States in reference to the “Black Live Matters” movement witnessed numerous murals in memory of the victims of police violence.
The street artists defend their causes
It is to honor women, victims of war, crime and rape, that in 2008 JR involved himself in the favela of Morro da Providência, then in a slum in Nairobi and on the US-American border. The artist wanted to pay homage to these women and give them back some dignity, while alerting the world of the abuses to which they are exposed on a daily basis.
Banksy, for his part, regularly works in favor of the Palestinian cause, among other denunciations. He has created artworks on the wall built by Israel in Palestinian territory and judged “illegal” by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Banksy did it again with the decoration of the Walled-Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
In this hotel located against the wall, the denunciation is total, as evidenced by the bust protecting itself from tear gas, the surveillance camera trophies and the demonstrators’ slingshots. Without omitting the presidential suite, decorated by the artist himself, which has “everything that a corrupt head of state needs”…
Fight is on the walls
Graffiti and street art are strong markers of social commitments throughout the world: impactful, quick, poetic or violent.
graffiti warns of the excesses of systems and participates in the opening to the world of the struggles that artists tirelessly wage to denounce oppression.