IRRESPONSIBLE SENSATIONALISM from THE MERCURY? By Iain Ewok Robinson
In response to todays (Monday 15th 2011) article in The Mercury under the title “GANG CAUGHT RED HANDED”:
A front page title such as GANG CAUGHT RED HANDED smacks of sensationalist and irresponsible journalism upon clearer analysis of the details of the event being described.
For any writer worth their pen, there can be no denying the obvious negative connotations associated with the use of a word like GANG in describing a group of urban youth, especially in a country and a city where violent gangsterism is still a serious issue affecting our communities. To label as a GANG a small group of young creative artists, engaging in what was quite obviously an unsuspecting and harmless act of craft and expression, is once again both short-sighted and potentially damaging for those involved, and can in no way be justified other than as an attempt at catching the attention of potential consumers of a product, in this case a newspaper.
To clarify: this group of artists that has been labelled a “gang” was gathering together, on a Sunday, in broad daylight, to paint a mural in a public space, permission for which had been granted to them previously by the apparent owner of the wall. This event has become an annual gathering by the artists, in tribute to a deceased friend, and was intended to add value to an apparently run-down and previously unsightly area of the city, home to a small population of the poorer residents of Durban (nicknamed “Dalton” in reference to the Dalton Road Hostels). The event was broadly advertised on social networking sites in an open invitation to any artists willing to participate in the tribute.
Does any of this sound like the act of “an organized group of criminals” (one of the Oxford Dictionary definitions of the word GANG)?
On an additional note, the article details further the extent of the police operation that resulted in this bust, including the employment of private investigators. Surely this is an unnecessary and somewhat extravagant use of City funds, when apparently they could have simply gone on to Facebook to find out more about this alleged “gang”?
The fact is, Graffiti Art in Durban, despite the countless examples of its aesthetic qualities and obvious craft, despite its continued assistance in a number of community up-liftment programs, despite its global acceptance as a legitimate form of artistic expression, has constantly been a victim of misrepresentation by a sensationalist media, and this lack of responsibility by our news agents should be highlighted.
Yours in solidarity with all such artists,
Iain EWOK Robinson, GRAFFITI ARTIST and director of the LIFE CHECK YOUTH DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.