Street art can promote conversation and highlight social, political and environmental issues and has always been a powerful platform to convey messages to the masses. Check out the street art murals brought to us in 2016 that promote injustices and inspire hope for our future…
Banksy was busy at the start of the year this time in the city of London, to again criticise the conditions of the Calais jungle. The Calais jungle is the nickname given to a migrant encampment in the vicinity of Calais, France, where migrants live while they attempt to enter the United Kingdom. Here Banksy paints the famous image of the young orphaned girl ‘Cosette’ from Les Misérables with tear gas being let off into her eyes. The piece represents the Victims camping in the Calais Jungle, and where tear gas is allegedly being used to clear the camp by the French authorities, another message Banksy is sharing to the world about the poor conditions the refugees are facing.
February saw the end of OPEN SPACE, a street art initiative by aptART that aimed to inspire men and women as equal contributors to a healthy society, economy, and political system in Jordan. Five artists, Ruben Sanchez, Jonathan Darby ART, Kevin Ledo, Suhaib Attar artwork and Akut of HERAKUT joined forces with young adults in Jordan to discuss issues of importance to them on the topic of gender.The resulting pieces are a constant reminder from the community, for the community that a healthy society values the contributions of both men and women equally. The project finished with Suhaib Attar painting the lion to encourage people to be fearless for gender equality. Suhaib artwork painted a giant lion as a cross-cultural symbol of bravery and courage, because a lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.
In March el Seed’s travelled to Egypt for his street art initiative ‘Perception’, challenging the viewer to see things differently. El Seed found himself in Manshiyat Naser working with the Zaraeeb community. A community who have served as Cairo’s informal garbage collectors since approximately the 1940s and recycle an impressive 85 percent of the waste that they collect.The largest settlement is Mokattam village, nicknamed ‘Garbage City’, and is located at the foot of the Mokattam Mountains, next to Manshiyat Naser. The people who live and work there are known as a derogatory term Zabaleen, ‘The Garbage People”. Perceptions and stereotypes of the Zaraeeb community are that they live in garbage and are dirty, but what they really do is take in the waste of the city of Cairo and efficiently recycle, saving resources, the environment and producing a cleaner Cairo and the planet!
Biancoshock in April brought us his art installations ‘Borderlife’, highlighting homes underground. Bucharest, the capital of Romania has an entire generation of children who have grown up in the tunnels of the sewer system. They sought refuge in the tunnels in 1989 during the Romanian revolution. The Communist regime was overthrown and Romanian orphanages were closed down releasing thousands of children onto the streets to defend for themselves. Many took refuge in the sewer tunnels because they were heated by steam pipes, it was this or they would die on the cold streets.
Today these children, now adults, still live in the tunnels and have been joined by many homeless children and adults seeking warmth and safety from the tunnels beneath the roads. These living tunnels has inspired street artist Biancoshock’s art installations.
Over 9 days in May, the world’s most renowned street artists came to Manchester to stand alongside the oppressed and those that fight at their side for the The Cities of Hope festival. It is designed to amplify the messages of nine leading street artists Case, Axel Void, C215, Faith47, Hyuro, Whatson, Nevercrew, Phlegm and artist duo PichiAvo. Artists were asked to produce an inspirational mural on a cause that resonates with their own values. Each mural was matched to a local grassroots organisation to raise awareness and money.
Pichiavo’s value was Conflicts and they painted Hercules fighting the centaur Nessus. They supported ‘Guns to Goods’, a Community Interest Company that recycles metal from guns for use in the production of creative artifacts. It is an artists’ collective, partnering organisations who actively work within communities to reduce weapons based crime.
The Grenoble Street Art Fest wrapped up its second public art festival in June and we got to see Nevercrew highlighting environmental issues with their mural of the two whales wrapped up in a sheet and hung up by a coat hanger. Nevercrew’s murals always carry an underlying criticism of mankind and this mural reflects the relationship between nature and the human being, on the one hand there are feelings of need and belonging and on the other consumption. The artists paint the whales in a kind of delicate balance.
Italian artist Millo was invited to paint in Kiev, Ukraine for the Mural Social Club street art festival. Millo paints a 9-floor high building in Kiev, dedicating his mural to love…
“It is called “Love Runs the World”. It’s a message of peace in a city zone where there are just blocks and blocks and blocks for kilometers. Someone may say that it’s just a small flower in the concrete, but many flowers do a small garden” Millo
August saw New York based artist Dan Witz in London with his ‘Breathing Room’ project that saw him take-over the city’s red telephone boxes with an illusionistic painting of a person, of all cultural backgrounds and faiths, all in the midst of spiritual practice, and all projecting a quiet sense of inner peace, such as a young Buddhist boy, a hijab-clad young woman and a Hindu yogi. The project was meant to be an extension of his past activism with Amnesty International, However, the recent terror attacks in Europe have had a profound effect on Dan Witz.
“All of a sudden the dark and didactic subject matter that characterized my past installations seemed inappropriate. Some breathing room seemed called for” Dan Witz