The Discoverer

The Hidden Message Behind Graffiti

Alejandra Castaño, Discoverer Staff Writer

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She’s over two meters tall with a long trunk and tusks stretching up into the air holding a white panuelo in remembrance of Operation Orion. Comuna 13´s most well known graffiti artist, Chota, includes elephants to represent their long lasting memory, since his community will never forget the times of violence. Operation Orion was a military operative that ended with urban militias in Comuna 13, also known as San Javier. Although for many, graffiti is considered vandalism, this art fills the streets with color, happiness and masterpieces that improve life in our cities.

Graffiti join all social classes and unify cities. This is a way of communication between social levels since these are made in public spaces. According to the website Arts Columbia, “Graffiti is a way for a wide range of people that might not typically interact with one another, to freely and directly communicate with one another.” Many places have gained power and recognition due to this art. It expresses ideas or stories to everyone that passes by. The Miami neighborhood, Wynwood, is a good example. It was a neglected neighborhood and turned out to be a place full of culture, art and food. It has a variety of restaurants and graffiti walls to take photos at. Graffiti are not only a way of communication but also of feelings.

With its colors and diversity, it evokes happiness to its public and to the artist. Graffiti artists constantly risk their lives with this activity, but continue because it is their passion. According to the website The Cardinal, “Some people do graffiti because they feel that their lives are a bit dull and boring without it. They need, no they crave that rush of adrenaline in their daily lives.” It makes them forget their problems and can express their lives through these. Its colors fill the streets and generate good vibes. Some consider graffiti vandalism since it is created illegally. Most graffiti are not created for advertisement or for money; therefore, they are made in public spaces to communicate important messages and ideas. While some people relate it to drugs, crime and violence, and others think graffitti takes away the elegance of the city since many are not artistic. However, this is a way to give life to cities that have lost it all after times of violence or that are not recognized by society.

Comuna 13 in Medellin is the perfect example of a place to which graffiti gave life. According to Colombia Reports, “While Medellin’s average homicide rate had been steady around 170 per 100,000 inhabitants around the turn of the century, the homicide rate in the Comuna 13 tripled between 1997 and 2002, going from a relatively low 123 to a staggering 357. In that same period, forced displacement went from three cases to 1259”. After Pablo Escobar, Comuna 13 stayed violent since urban militias stayed in the zone. Graffiti rejuvenated this community, and this transformation has become a famous tourist site known worldwide and a safe place to visit.

Although for many, graffiti creates a negative connotation, it is more the positive aspects it has. This is a way to bring people together and eliminate violence as in Medellin. Also, it reflects creativity and happiness to everyone walking through the streets.

Works Cited

“Comuna 13: How Medellin’s Most Infamous Community Reinvented Itself.” Sounds and Colours, 5 Mar. 2018, soundsandcolours.com/articles/colombia/comuna-13-medellins-infamous-community-reinvented-40121/

Daley, J. (2019, January 04). Basquiat Painting Has Hidden Black-Light Images. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/basquiat-painting-has-hidden-blacklight-images-180971167/

Hood, S. (2019, January 02). Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism? Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/essays/graffiti-art-vandalism-43288/

Hughes, Melissa L., “Street Art & Graffiti Art: Developing an Understanding.” Thesis, Georgia State University, 2009. https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/art_design_theses/50

Thach, B. (n.d.). What is The Purpose of Graffiti? Retrieved from https://thehoovercardinal.org/1348/opinion/what-is-the-purpose-of-graffiti/

The Culture and Politics of Graffiti Art. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://sunsite.icm.edu.pl/graffiti/faq/werwath/werwath.html

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