Friday, 31 August 2012

See Me, Hear Me - Graffiti in Athens

As I walk the streets of Athens I am struck by how much Graffiti there is in all areas of the city. It’s everywhere on old and new buildings, on walls, fences and on trains, on lampposts on the walls of the subways and on every train, in wealthy and poor areas: some of it seems artistic and some of it I think destroys the aesthetics of an area.

Its all over the walls in the school playgrounds, which I find amazing, I have never seen this anywhere before. I’m wondering if the children do this during school hours.

I have a conversation with a local teacher who tells me that in Greece we have a saying “I make eyes that don’t see straight ahead” its a phrase that is difficult to translate into English he tells me, “its probably best to let them express themselves this way, its an outlet, which if they didn’t have, may express itself in a more violent way”. Personally, I’m not so keen on this form of expression, random words spray painted often of beautiful buildings and I am fully aware that my feelings and judgements about this act as a filter, which can stop me seeing and hearing what it is this graffiti is saying.  I'd rather hear and see views expressed from people, through conversation, drama, art exhibitions, peaceful protests, dances and yet.

I recognise that Graffiti is certainly one way across continents, that people express themselves, they speak and they are speaking loudly in Athens! I see the art in some of this work and the heart too, the anger and the pain, excitement and the fear and a strong need to be heard.

I have never taken much notice of Graffiti until, last year when I spoke with a young boy in the UK who at the time, seemed obsessed by Graffiti, he explained to me that it was about being known by others and taking risks. The more dangerous, the place is that someone manages to put their tag (which is the unique Graf name) the more credibility they receive. This is why we see Graffiti across the other side of railways tacks and on high buildings: for this young boy it was about him feeling significant and that he belonged to a group.

I wonder if this is the case here in Greece.

The pictures here are just a few examples from trains and on the walls of subways and Syntagma square, the messages include names of football teams, tags and political messages:

“Government Fraudsters”
“Everyone in the street, so we can ban the laws”

“We don’t pay their taxes”

Expressing ourselves, our views, ideas, feelings, beliefs etc; to have a sense of power and influence over our lives, are strong human needs. To have choice, to matter, to belong, to have a voice, to be part of a community, to understand that what we say and do matters and to be willing to clean up our own mess, is important to.

I wonder how we are fostering these qualities in our communities in the UK and also how they are doing this in here in Greece.

Reflections from the streets of Athens! 

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