Relationship of Graffiti and Politics

Throughout this blog, we have emphasised that graffiti is used for political expression. But we have never really discussed how and where this has been used. There is a lot of information and history that is behind the following graffiti and we have attempted to provide concise background. We implore you to read further and for any readers who reside within the mentioned countries, please let us know if there are any inaccuracies or offensive material that we may have missed.

But without further ado, graffiti and politics.

The Political Environment in Venezuela

The late Hugo Chavez was the former Venezuelan President and was held in high regard amongst the Venezuelan population due to his transformation of the country’s political and economic landscape by nationalizing industries and funnelling enormous amounts of government money into social programs. Chavez ruled Venezuela for 14 years before his death in 2012, leading to current president Nicolas Maduro to succeed.

Chaves is viewed as something close to a saint by many Venezuelans (Source Al Jazeera)
Supporters believe deceased president hugo chavez followed in the footsteps of Latin American revolutionaries. This image in downtown Caracas shows Chaves beside Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar and communist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara (Source: Al Jazeera)

Maduro is rather unpopular as those opposed to his leadership accuse him of moving from democracy towards a dictatorship. Venezuela relied heavily on its exports of oil for its basic needs. Since the collapse of the oil industry in 2014, the combination of low oil prices and government regulations on currency have brought shortages of the necessities and has caused an alarming rate of inflation.

Demonstrators walk past a graffiti that reads “Maduro out. Down with the dictatorship. Enough repression” during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 26, 2017. (Source: REUTERS/Marco Bello)

Maduro has failed to assist the nation with this crisis and has employed authoritarian tactics to avoid dissent; this includes gaining power with the Supreme Court, imprisoning major political rivals, postponing state elections and allegedly holding a rigged election in July 2017.

‘1984 is Here’
Graffiti found in Venezuela alluding to George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’
(Source: Helen Dale)

The difference in sentiment for Chavez and Maduro is heavily evident in the graffiti:

Cairo’s Graffiti Wall

The graffiti on the walls of Mohamed Mahmoud street are a visual reminder of the fighting between protesters and security forces. Photograph: Amr Dalsh/Reuters (Source: Guardian)

The Egyptian Revolution was a planned attempt to overthrow the then President, Hosni Mubarak due to the increased police brutality during his presidency. Actions such as demmostrations, marches, occupancy and strikes were conducted during this revolution. The most horrific action however, were the protests, with the most extreme example being in Tahrir Square. The central security forces fought back with supposedly “non-lethal” crowd control, such as birdshot and teargas.

In response to this, graffitist Abo Bakr created this mural depicting blinded protesters fighting security forces. This has sparked a number of murals of this nature.


Graffiti and the Syrian Revolution

“Doctor, your turn,”
(Source: Vice News)

Doctor, your turn,’ is the graffiti that has become an origin myth for Syria’s internal conflict. The Doctor is in reference to Bashar al Assad, Syria’s dictator and coincidentally an ophthalmologist.

After the graffiti appeared on the 16th February 2011, the police started rounding schoolchildren within the area of Daraa, thus leading to the imprisonment and torture of the students involved in the graffiti. This lead to a horrific cycle of protests, repression by the police and government and the funerals for the protesters.

(This last one is just for fun)

Ancient Pompeii in Italy

The graffiti in this area shed light on the daily life in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, including the feelings, emotions and beliefs of the people. The graffiti reflect characteristics and anecdotes that people would experience today.

Ancient graffiti in Pompeii, in the style typical for a political campaign. (Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Flickr)

Unfortunately we do not have any more pictures that we can translate. BUT! , click HERE, for translations of Pompeii graffiti without pictures. Much hilarious!


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