Cans and Crime and Corporates – Playone

I was asked to write something about what’s happening in Durban (and eventually will hit the rest of SA.) As I am a negative nancy most of the time – I tend to moan and complain about everything – I decided not to voice my opinion.

But, a few things happened today which got me thinking…

I took a walk along the train line today, there are a few old chromies on the line. I caught a burst of colour on some steel that pulled into the station. From there I walked up to main road and saw some pretty decent hand styles. I jumped into a taxi. The gaatjie (sliding door operator) in the taxi was wearing some wanna be Wild Style kinda t-shirt. All along Main Road most of the graffiti has been buffed: tags, throw ups, legal spots. I was heading towards a meeting for a full-time gig at a corporate company. Most of the illustration skill I have was born when I started painting, in terms of colour use and layout. Preparation for a nine-to-five job.

On the taxi drive… listening to the gaatjie go mental, trying to get people into the taxi (by basically grabbing them off the street!)

I was thinking about the aerosol seven, I know a few of the homies very well, they are good mates. From the corporate gig we (wife and me) headed towards a company that wants to use graffiti in their campaign to create social upliftment and awareness of their product. As usual they have no clue about graffiti as an art form- they know what the rest of the world knows, street art… Banksy.


For most people that paint graffiti – the aim of course is to get fame and write your name as big as you can. This was not my aim. I worked arse backwards in terms of the graffiti world. I have written graff since ’96, on and off. The two meetings I went to today were both available to me because of the foundation graffiti has laid for me; the person I became from the moment I started painting. I’ve always been about painting full colour pretty pictures. The sad part is that today you can end up in jail with murderers and rapists for painting pictures that make neighbourhoods look less grey. Spray paint companies have invested in making paint for graffiti artists by graffiti artists. Our art form is the only one in the world where, in a day , I can travel to the UK, have a place to stay and people to paint with, because of a common goal.

Corporations use graff writers as art directors to market their products. Graffiti is everywhere in the advertising world today (or watered-down versions of it.) To call something that has changed the world,  a crime, is ridiculous! Why are we in their board meetings then, where they hang on our every word to tell them what’s current?

Are other “criminals” in these meetings and no one tells us about it? Do they employ murderers to show them stabbing techniques for the new ginsui knife set?

Look at the facts as to what happened in Durban: 7 graffiti artists were arrested for paying tribute to a young dude that passed away, he was an up and comer in the game. Why were they arrested?

Why did they get published in 2 newspapers as being part of a vandal spree?

The answer is simple – they used spray paint as their medium of choice. That’s the bottom line here. Because if they were standing with paint brushes the mural would have made the paper and read: Artists Pay Respects To One Of Their Own! But, they label that annual occasion as gangs of graffiti. Graffiti is so far from gangsterism its a joke. There are writers that make it their mission to do community upliftment projects by decorating walls, buildings and shacks for free! Those same artists refuse to play certain music out of their cars so kids don’t think commercial hip hop is associated with graffiti. In my city over the last 10 years gang graffiti has dropped in a huge way, and stylish hand styles (tags) have replaced it. If you don’t see that kids would rather write their own name than writing a gang name as a good thing, you are probably the same idiots that associate graffiti with gangsterism.

Graffiti is the biggest art movement the world has ever seen. Google ‘graffiti’ – in any city in the world and see what you find in terms of style. Some graffiti artists have even taken time to start foundations to help feed hungry children, how many criminals do that?

Day in and day out media adverts are forced down our throats. Everyone accepts that way of life. Buildings pop up all over the city. No one asks permission to build them? If someone who wants to label paying between 400 and 1000 rand a wall for materials as a crime… They will stand alone in their ignorance.

Go to Playone’s blog and site

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Posted on August 23, 2011, in Playone and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. wrek kms.fsu.bws

    Aweh said well

  2. well said mr playoner

  3. Rhyan rocking rolling rudman

    Stay positive keep a chill vibration. I wish the Seven artist that got arrested for art all the best. It blows me away that murder is investigated less than ART…..It seems we live in a barbaric state. If you do something beautiful you get arrested yet real criminals run a riot. Municipal workers trash the city in order for the city to pay them more with no consequence, nothing makes sense anymore…………Please this nightmare has to END

  4. i love you bro…

  5. I am in two minds about this whole situation. On the one hand I completely agree that graffiti is an art form, when done properly. However the difference between graffiti and most other art forms is that graffiti is sprayed on public and sometimes private property. That is vandalism, unless you want to redefine the meaning of the word. You can argue that a good piece of graffiti makes a boring/bland wall much better to look at, however as with all art, the opinion of its value is subjective. Not everyone likes to see colourful text/tags but unlike most other forms of art the viewer has no choice and has to see the work. Be it on their commute or on the wall next to their local cafe. So by virtue of the fact that art is subjective I think that defending the practice of graffiti on public/private property because it is ‘art’ is flawed. In most cases the owner of the property isn’t given the choice and in those cases I see no reason why it should not be considered a criminal act. If someone, even if it was picaso, drew all over my house or car you can be damn sure I’d call the police.

    • Just a reminder – we endorse legal graffiti, public property painted once the appropriate permission has been gained. If it’s passers by you want to discuss, and their possible issues with said legal graffiti, then direct me to somewhere I can complain about the ugly Tuscan houses I don’t enjoy passing in my neighbourhood, too.

  6. wrek kms.fsu.bws

    Writers united u won’t beat us we stand united in this !!

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