In many cities, graffiti is associated with decay, with communities out of control, and so it is outlawed.
In some cities, it is legal, within limits, and valued as a form of social expression.
Zimbabwe’s history of colonization informs what appears on the walls ‘tagged’ by young artists.
The remains of early humans, dating back 500,000 years, have been discovered in present-day Zimbabwe and it has been possible to speculate about these people’s everyday lives and traditions from their hieroglyphic “tags” on walls in and on the outside of caves in various parts of the countryside.
“Buying off” trouble is less disruptive than opposing it.
Graffiti that is sanctioned by authority loses its outlaw power to disturb and challenge.However, as a rebellious act, a tool of resistance, and ammunition against corporate greed and political perversion, economic gain through independence and freedom of expression remains difficult for the graffiti artist to attain.Founding convener of Urban Ecology Australia and a recognised ‘ecocity pioneer’, Paul and co-founders are pioneering the Ecocity Design Institute.In Zimbabwe, graffiti images often appear in stark contrast to abject poverty or gross excess and may surface unexpectedly on the side of government buildings; on university campuses; and on walls along parks, highways, dilapidated houses, or dead-end streets.The more entrepreneurial may put graffiti images on clothing, bags, and decorative boxes that speak to an alternative and uniquely creative youth culture.But institutions also love it, and Drew, like Banksy, has been exhibited in galleries.Street art that is sanctioned as a way to ameliorate dull façades is effectively assimilated as city property; it can no longer be about the conflict of ownership. Adelaide’s previous Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood, saw street art as a game-changer for the 21st century city, consigning blank walls to the past.These early “stencil” drawings provide some insight into the lives of the people who lived outside the city and those who dominated the pre-colonial countryside—the Bantu, Shona, Nguni, Zulu, and Ndebele.Today, in a somewhat more “integrated” manner, Zimbabwean graffiti artists portray the oppressive conditions in the concrete jungle of high density areas, the conspicuous consumption and opulence of the more affluent sectors of Zimbabwean society, which is segregated still according to colour and class, though less overtly and with less of the racist economic divide that ruled Rhodesia.For many who want to surround themselves with art that makes them feel good, the work of the graffiti artist may be too bold or too provocative.The work may also be seen as too stark, too crude, and unfinished in its attempt to bridge the gap between that which may be viewed as “less than” and the broader society; yet, it is precisely these elements that make the work dynamic and “real”.