Sanctions imposed on the country have made many of the tools needed for other art forms luxury items that few could procure or afford.
However, erasers, markers—especially concentrated but fluid watercolours to fill backgrounds and letters—are more accessible and easy to use on cheap canvases such as city walls.
But institutions also love it, and Drew, like Banksy, has been exhibited in galleries.
Street art that is sanctioned as a way to ameliorate dull façades is effectively assimilated as city property; it can no longer be about the conflict of ownership. Adelaide’s previous Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood, saw street art as a game-changer for the 21st century city, consigning blank walls to the past.
Starting in 1932, by 1967 Arthur Stace had chalked out his one-word message half a million times and entered the realm of legend. “Worthless” graffiti can become a commodity, its value transformed by a simple shift in view.
Graffiti highlights one of society’s contradictions when protest is transmuted into product and neutered. Capitalism’s ability to assimilate ideas that threaten it is unsurpassed.What are examples of graffiti as beneficial influences in communities, as propellants of expression and dialog? This roundtable is a co-production of The Nature of Cities and the new website Arts Everywhere, where these responses are also published.Also check out The Nature of Graffiti, a gallery that illustrates some of these ideas from an environmental perspective.These early “stencil” drawings provide some insight into the lives of the people who lived outside the city and those who dominated the pre-colonial countryside—the Bantu, Shona, Nguni, Zulu, and Ndebele.Today, in a somewhat more “integrated” manner, Zimbabwean graffiti artists portray the oppressive conditions in the concrete jungle of high density areas, the conspicuous consumption and opulence of the more affluent sectors of Zimbabwean society, which is segregated still according to colour and class, though less overtly and with less of the racist economic divide that ruled Rhodesia.For many who want to surround themselves with art that makes them feel good, the work of the graffiti artist may be too bold or too provocative.The work may also be seen as too stark, too crude, and unfinished in its attempt to bridge the gap between that which may be viewed as “less than” and the broader society; yet, it is precisely these elements that make the work dynamic and “real”.In Zimbabwe, graffiti images often appear in stark contrast to abject poverty or gross excess and may surface unexpectedly on the side of government buildings; on university campuses; and on walls along parks, highways, dilapidated houses, or dead-end streets.The more entrepreneurial may put graffiti images on clothing, bags, and decorative boxes that speak to an alternative and uniquely creative youth culture.He trades on his anonymity and notoriety, and the commodification of his work, even its placement in galleries, legitimises it within the society that he is criticising—but as provocation or product, it’s hard to gainsay its power.Graffitist Peter Drew is certain that street art will maintain its authenticity “because there’s always going to be an illegal aspect to it…It’s a conflict between two great principles of Western democracy—the sanctity of private property and freedom of expression”. In the street, claims Drew, art acquires “an anti-institutional sense”.