Graffiti is a painting, mark, or writing that is scratched, scrawled, or sprayed on surfaces and walls in places that are reachable to the public eye. However, they are not very easy to interpret. The word graffiti initially referred to the marks that were found on prehistoric Roman art.
Today, graffiti is found in a variety of forms from simple sketches to complex and lively wall paintings using different materials. Spray paints and marker pens are the most notable materials used to create graffiti. In some countries, graffiti art is considered a criminal offence in form of vandalism and defacement of property.
There are different genres of graffiti. Firstly, we have political graffiti that is done in magazines, posters, comic books, pamphlets and so on. The second genre is gang graffiti which is used by gangs to signify group membership, identification and territory marking. The third type is known as rock and roll graffiti, and lastly is graffiti art (sometimes known as known as hip hop or New York style graffiti) which is thought to have originated from the US and spread all over the world through hip hop music, tattoos and clothing label designers.
Why graffiti art is controversial in the contemporary society
Most graffiti is done by teenagers and youths mainly on public parks, cities, walls, school property or on unoccupied premises. For a long time, it has been associated with vandalism particularly when it is done on public or private property, monuments, and pavements without the consent of relevant persons (Sudbanthad, para. 7). What makes the act controversial is that most of it is done with no permission. Besides, some graffiti contain indecent or offensive images or text. Graffiti art also makes the environment untidy and dirty.
In addition, fumes from the paints used for creating graffiti add noxious chemicals into the air and this can affect the lungs. The greatest fear about graffiti is that it may significantly contribute to global warming on a long term basis. Many countries also claim that it costs them billions to clean graffiti off buildings. Finally, Graffiti encourages violence whereby gang groups disfigure other gangs’ arts thus resulting in violence.
Graffiti as an art
Graffiti is an art since like other art forms like music and poetry, it helps persons to express not only their emotions but also their political and social feelings. One point that needs to be clarified is the difference between graffiti art and graffiti vandalism; the former refers to a genuine art form used to express emotion and feelings while the latter refers to a hijacking of the otherwise noble art for personal gains, such as when it is used by criminal gangs or done illegally (Manukau Institute of Technology).
One graffiti artist summarizes the role of graffiti in expression as “…an expression of my mind. It’s my mind coming to reality. It’s a thought coming so that people can see it. It’s the manifestation of a thought so that everybody can see what I’m thinking” (Ferris, para. 9). Inhibiting graffiti is tantamount to denying graffiti artists the right to express themselves
Graffiti is art just like any other form of art and should be respected and encouraged. However, persons who express themselves through graffiti should be advised on the right places to create graffiti.
It should be encouraged to help young people to nurture and develop their talents in artistic abilities which could lead to the creation of employment opportunities in the future. Rather than criticizing it and focusing on the negatives, authorities should assist young people realize their dreams and see the positives out of this form of art (William, para. 5).
These positives include the fact that graffiti art can be used to create colorful posters that can be used for marketing and advertisement functions, political campaigns and even create an art exhibition. Graffiti has also been done on clothing, acting as a source of additional funds for graffiti artists.
As earlier stated, this art form can also be used in published material such as comic books, art magazines, and newspapers, thus creating income to young people. In addition, when done on the right places, graffiti art makes the environment colorful and more attractive and it brightens dull areas and dirty walls. This is often seen in social places such as parks, sports grounds, railway and bus stations, and so on.
Graffiti art has generated heated debates since it is usually associated with vandalism and dissent. This notion arises from the fact that it is normally done without consent from relevant authorities or persons. Although it is considered a crime by many municipal and county authorities around the world, graffiti is a form of art that if encouraged and nurtured, could act as a form of employment for youth and thus function to reduce joblessness among young persons.
Graffiti art also helps to make the environment colorful thereby benefitting the society as a whole. Finally, graffiti is a form of expression and inhibiting it denies young persons a voice and the right to express themselves. Emphasis should be placed on encouraging graffiti artists to practice it on the right places and platforms. For this to be achieved, authorities should establish programs to nurture positive use of graffiti.
Ferris, Morning Rae. The World of Street Art. WordPress. 2008. Web. January 25, 2012.
Manukau Institute of Technology. Top New York graffiti artist creates with MIT arts students. Manukau Institute of Technology. 2007. Web. January 25, 2012.
Sudbanthad, Pitchaya. Roundtable: street art. The Morning News. 2005. Web. January 25, 2012.
William, Tan Ruixiang. Graffiti art – a solution to urban decay? Ezine Articles. 2008. Web. January 25, 2012.