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By: Ganai Taiyba

The term graffiti signifies the content scribbled, scratched, painted or drawn on walls that are usually in broad public view, using spray cans, hand art and other skills of writing, painting and drawings. The art form has emerged as a common mans urge to speak up and step out and convey something that mainstream media or other such platforms of communication might not approve of.

Historically speaking, Graffiti is perhaps the oldest form of public messaging and free form art that has its beginning thousands of years ago dating back to the cave paintings and stone carvings.

Although Graffiti is still known for expressing underlying social, political, religious, cultural and other messages which are often seen as ‘not acceptable’ and strong ‘dissent’, the modern day graffiti has undergone tremendous changes and has emerged as a prominent art form with countries like the United States having specific places, walls and rocks dedicated to this form of art.

The works of graffiti are also indicative of as much social, cultural and geographical issues as these are political in nature. Though politics dominates graffiti, but other subjects including nostalgia, melancholy, longing for nature etc has also found the rightful space within this art form.

In the west, graffiti is also, often, associated with hip-hop culture although its potential to be the most facile way of conveying a message remains its essence.

However, apart from the west, graffiti has found its best and probably the most devoted admirers in war-torn, conflict ridden places where people, mostly young artists and otherwise also, who tend to convey their dissent by way of drawings, writings, paintings etc on walls to demonstrate what they’re going through and what they’re fighting for!

The war in Palestine and the conflict in Kashmir provide two very powerful examples of graffiti where people chose this alternative way of expression and by drawing different patterns and various strokes of color on the walls sending messages laden with dissent and a desire to express themselves to the world.

The constant bloodshed, conflict scenarios, trauma and the ever decreasing space for the masses to express themselves leads to trends like that of graffiti and people, unknown in most of the cases, give went to their thoughts on the walls for everyone to see. Interesting the English proverb ‘writing on a wall’ demonstrated the impact that graffiti can cause to happen.

If we march around the streets of Kashmir through each district, we can a number of such graffiti’s which signify the underlying state of mind of the masses.

Messaging ranging from ‘Freedom’ to ‘dissent’ and to ‘revolution’ are all painted, drawn and written on the walls nearly in all main towns in Kashmir valley.

Often treated as illegal, graffiti has always been a subject of serious concern for those administrations which believe in resolving the issues confronting the masses. The underlying messages are easy to decipher when graffiti uses more of a written world, a slogan, a one-liner etc. but when it is sheer art, a creative depiction of a situation; it might take a more careful gaze to make sense of the work of art.

Graffiti artists, in conflict areas, keep their identities concealed for obvious reasons but we have had great artists like Banksy, an anonymous England-based street artist, vandal, political activist and film director whose graffiti is executed in a distinctive stenciling technique and has become a strong trend among many art groups. He chose streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world and grew out of the Bristol underground scene, which involved collaborations between artists and musicians. Banksy is a legend already!

These pieces of graffiti art aren’t mere words or drawings but stories, anecdotes and underlying emotions- what people think, feel and face-are transformed into the art and words on the walls and streets and eventually makes a great difference.


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