Graffiti and the messages that these tell us

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Monday, June 2, 2014


THEIR messages were written since ancient times. They etched on stone tablets and used colored clay or burnt wood to draw on cave walls. We came to learn about their existence from school discussions and history books. The cavemen of Africa, Australia and Europe depicted life form during the Paleolithic age. Others in Altamira, Spain, Mexico and France even portrayed animals and humans in motion showing multiple limbs suggesting action. Theirs was perhaps a form of recreation when confined to caves during the extreme cold season with fire as their only source of light. As an artist myself who once painted on a rock formation somewhere down the abandoned hydro power plant in Camp 6, Kennon Road, I felt a sense of fulfilment or accomplishment looking at the sign that I have paint-brushed on that natural vertical wall. It was somewhat a kind of early age advocacy and a personal challenge that I wrote “Make War No More”, a message that I borrowed from an anti-war and pro hippie movie that already escaped my memory.

Today the word Graffiti came to be known as writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed on walls or other blank surfaces most of which are fences, sides of buildings and public comfort rooms. We see a lot of it in waiting sheds and backstreet corners or alleys here in Baguio. I noticed these street signs or marks since the time I became involved with the city’s Alay Sa Kalinisan and I soon found myself taking pictures of these graffiti works for my personal files as I look at it as a form of communication. Other than election related campaign strategies where names of candidates are written along roadsides, protest messages from militant groups also used graffiti with paints with that hammer and sickle symbol seen during the period of anti-dictatorship propagandas and anti-US Base protests by the so-called leftists back in the 80s. In the book The Faith of Graffiti that I bought in the early 80s which I still have today, it illustrates a time in New York City when almost all street corners, parks and subways have the works or covert graffiti artists who uses names such as CAY 161. TAKI 183 and LI’L FLAME. A quote from the book written by a certain Norman Mailer says “Graffiti lingers on our subway door as a memento of what may well have been, our first art or karma, as if indeed all the lives ever lived are sounding now like the bugles of gathering armies across the unseen ridge.” In the same book, a quotation coming from a person named Chairman Martinez says. “Graffiti writing is a way of gaining status in a society where to own property is to have an identity” to which he adds “Anybody can be a writer, but if you’re recognized, it means you are a master.”

What I’ve been doing in as far as graffiti writing is concerned is not really to discover who these mysterious artists or vandals are but to try to analyse, dissect and understand what motivates them at this period in time and for whom are the messages that they are sending out. Still without a clear conclusion, I am also wondering whether these graffiti artists are being motivated or compelled by peer members of a fraternity that they belong to or they just do it as a matter of gang recognition.

Definitely, there is that element of self-glorification by an individual upon seeing a visible accomplishment. In one of my Facebook social media pages, I posted dozens of images taken within Baguio City and many commented in disbelief that the once cleanest and greenest highly urbanized city in the Philippines has become what New York City was like after the hippie period. The FB page “Baguio Yesterday and Today” posed the question Baguio's Graffiti - art or eyesore? To which many reacted saying that “graffiti art is ok. ilagay lang sa ayos at lugar...para magandang tignan at hindi SORE Eyes sa lungsod” and “this is not street art at all..I like street art and I usually take pictures of it. This is a no! no!” referring to the images that I uploaded.

Graffiti just like the cave paintings has existed since ancient times with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt though the use of hieroglyphs, symbols and images of life forms imprinted on clay tablets and tomb stones. I may no longer be able to harness myself with my rappelling gears and go back to that huge rock near the hydropower plant or will even think of using aerosol paints to write “Keep Baguio City Clean and Green” and if there’s one thing that I would like to do to keep a creative juices flowing in harmony with the surroundings is to meet with these artists and tell them….Hey! let’s instead do a collaborate work and bring back the image of Baguio as a center for art and culture even if the first thing to do is graffiti art.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 03, 2014.

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