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Durban Graffiti Gangs

The Aerosol Seven

by Andy Davis / Images by Samora Chapman / 19.08.2011

The scene is on fire. The story of the “031 Aerosol Seven” seems to have swept the nation, sparking heated debates on the morality of public art, both legal and illegal and scrutinizing the very nature of public space (with a little side spat on the role of media sensationalism and journalistic bias). The battle came to a climax yesterday morning with Ewok, the godfather of Durban hip hop, taking on police spokesperson Eugene Msomi on East Coast Radio.

Ewok took the stage with confidence honed over years as a battle MC, stating that he was one of the first people to paint the wall five years ago. The wall is thought to be owned, or leased by Speed Trans Trucking and the name of the company was actually painted on the wall when the original mural was done. This begs the question: is anybody going to bash down Ewok’s door and arrest him for vandalising the wall of Speed Trans Trucking? The truth is, just about every graffiti artist in Durban has painted that wall at some time or another.

Mr Msomi stuttered his way through a statement, saying things like “as far as we are aware they did not have permission to paint the wall,” which hardly instils confidence in the state’s case. The crux of his poorly articulated statement was that he could not discuss details due to the case pending.
Ewok finished off with killer style: “equating spray painting with vandalism is like saying politicians with money in their pockets should immediately be accused of corruption.”

Check the full podcast here.

Durban Graffiti Gangs

Now it’s time to take a step back and breathe. The courts have set the the trial for September 14. That gives Metro, the prosecutors and their team of private investigators one month to build their case. And it gives the hip hop community and the Durban creative set one month to unite. There are legal fees to be raised. Contrary to the claims of Citizen journalist Paul Kirk, these young artists are not all trust fund kids. They are vocational artists in a society that celebrates sex, booze and rugby long before art and culture. A benefit gig is being mooted with performances from local bands and boards being painted and auctioned to raise funds. We’ll publish the details on Mahala just as soon as they’re finalised.

Coming up, we’ll be attempting to put the debate around whether the Aerosol Seven are bonafide artists to bed with a series of profiles. In the meantime take a squiz at some of the pics from Battle of the Year, the annual Poison City hip hop convention held last weekend. Part of Life Check, a non profit initiative aimed at empowering young people through hip hop.

Durban Graffiti Gangs

Life Check Battle of the Year

Life Check Battle of the Year

Life Check Battle of the Year

Life Check Battle of the Year

Life Check Battle of the Year

Durban Graffiti Gangs

Durban Graffiti Gangs

Life Check Battle of the Year

Life Check Battle of the Year

*Check in at Gangs of Graffiti for all the latest.

**All images © Samora Chapman.

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RESPONSES (36)
  1. fobias says:

    “equating spray painting with vandalism is like saying politicians with money in their pockets should immediately be accused of corruption.” – Ewok

    Maybe it’s not an equation but a matter of tendency? I’m willing to bet that 9 out of 10 politicians with an excess of money in their pockets acquired them by suspicious means, as I’m willing to bet that 9 out of 10 graffiti kids engage in petty, unconstructive vandalism.

    It doesn’t mean that the other 10% needs to be demonised. But at least we know that this stereotype didn’t just come out of the sky. How do we address the stereotype? That’s a more complicated question.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Why is there only a bunch of photos of kids doing legal street art along with this article? ART IS NOT A CRIME. And it’s not the reason why those kids are going down. There would be NO drama if they only did this- legal walls and canvasses. No one sees the cops coming round to shut down Lifecheck, do they? And as a scene, you can’t try and hoodwink the public into trying to believe the vandals are others, elsewhere. Because as Fobias says; 9 out of ten graf kids DO go bombing. And now that EWOK has put his name as the MC of Hiphop culture on the line and vouched for EVERYONE’S ‘innocence’, (instead of admitting that some of the kids will be in a lot of trouble, and then separating the innocents from the criminals) – the public will not take our word again. And we will be viewed as 10/10 graf kids vandalize. And that’s just shitty for us, who love graff, but don’t do crime. THANKS. Didn’t your mother ever teach you honesty is the best policy. Because dirty laundry always gets aired. But I never shat my bed before- where you have. There was a chance for complete and utter honesty on ECR and at least some solace for us legal kids and when they go down, which they will, we’ll ALL take the blame. Righteous? Right?
    Wrong.

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  3. AWE Cape Town says:

    League of Shadows: “GrafET warz” http://listn.to/leagueofshadowsZA

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  4. Anonymous says:

    9 out of ten. its more likely 1 out of ten, maybe. there were no lies on ECR yesterday morning, well apart from stuttering police officials thinking that they are aware of what might be the case.

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  5. old grumpypants says:

    As much as I will always champion the arts as the umtimate conduit for humanity’s soul, I also live in dread of a world where anyone is able to foist their creative output on our senses whenever they feel like it in an opportune manner. Does this not cheapen the relevance of art in our lives and detract from the power and the poignance that it should enjoy? Should we not enjoy some degree of autonomy and choice when it comes to what we expose our senses to throughout the day and the manner in which we are able to contextualise it?

    To me graffiti has a strong element of wilful attention-seeking and inflated self-importance, driven largely by its dogged attempt to invade public spaces and to compete for our attention – much in a manner also practiced by insecure extroverts and petulant children. Does personal freedom and freedom of expression mean that everyone is allowed to turn up the volume on everything whenever they feel like it? What about the rights of the masses to enjoy a little quiet and respect, whether that be aural or visual.

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  6. Anya says:

    So fobias pulls a number out of its ass, next thing Anonymous is quoting it as gospel. Show me ANY proof that 9 of 10 graf artists waste their time bombing and tagging and I’ll kiss Andy and Roger full on the lips.

    As far as the public trusting ‘our’ words, I’ll take the word of Ewok (who is in the trenches constantly, knows who these kids are and has worked his ass off to help the local art and hip hop culture) over the self-important bile of someone who doesn’t even have the guts to post their name on a fucking internet forum.

    Wankers… go eat a Spur burger and stare at your Thomas Kinkade prints.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    @ Anya. Ok, so you may know Ewok. But I know the kids who were arrested. And they certainly don’t hang out with anyone called Anya. That’s what I’m saying- Ewok has given them the benefit of the doubt. With rose tinted glasses. Stick to what you know. And don’t go making assumptions. They can get you in a lot of trouble.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    honestly, can any ONE local graff artist reading this, please confidently and honestly tell me that they have NEVER and NOT ONCE tagged or sprayed somewere where they didn’t have the permission and didn’t care?

    Just ONE.

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  9. creepy steve says:

    too bad they don’t use the tax payers dollars to arrest the real criminals like robbers and rapists, surely there’s no shortage of those floating around….go sap make us proud , soft targets fulling arrest quotas putting out an impression that you’re doing your job bullshit

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  10. ghettosmurf says:

    Don’t tag me…

    A short story by Lance Liebenberg

    So I’ve tried to stay relatively out of this whole “gangs of graffiti” entanglement some Durbanites have found themselves ensnared in, other than the odd Facebook update with rather limited scope. To offer full disclosure, there are three reasons for this:

    I am absolutely in love with graffiti and the hip hop culture, (have you ever seen a broke crack-head search a carpeted floor on the third day of his binge for the piece of rock that dropped out his pipe? Me neither, but if Hip Hop was that rock, I’d spend all day on my hands and knees with my nose on that carpet) have been since I started skateboarding at the age of ten, (I’m much older now, almost thirty, but it’s okay, Ray Kurzweil says if we can just live long enough to see The Singularity we’ll probably live forever, seriously, google it) and so I feel it would be difficult for me to write an un-biased “opinion piece” on the subject.
    I count many of Durban’s original Hip Hop innovaters, founders, activists, graf artists, and vandals as friends or acquaintances, (my friends are totally cooler than Paul Kirks, he hangs out with lesbian Nazi’s and people that still laugh at Vernon Koekermoer jokes [Actually, the lesbian nazis’sound like a good time out]) once again this would push me towards a natural alliance with them, and nullify any validity of standpoint. (Or at least in the eyes of those working for and supporting “The Man”)
    I work for “The Man.” (see what I did there?) I am currently employed, and have been for quite some time, at Independent Newspapers Limited, who produce The Mercury and were responsible for a massively (in my view) irresponsible, or at the very least, poorly researched article.

    This puts me in the unique position (and mindset: rebellious teenager siding with the super-hero-graf-vandals sticking it to elitist-society on my behalf, crossed with, must go to work everyday and behave myself to pay for rent, car, booze and various other things I don’t need but love to have) of being the so-called insider. The voice of dissent amongst the ranks, (if Captain Jack Sparrow and Hunter S Thompson made a baby, I’d like to think of myself as that five foot, hairy, foul mouthed baby) although I don’t believe I am the only one, there are surely more voices within the establishment that feel the same way. However, I have not yet seen any of them put their hands up. (Admittedly I haven’t looked that hard either)

    By now the facts, and I mean the real facts, (like Evolution and Scientology) have been well covered in alternative media spaces such as http://www.mahala.co.za and mainstream on East Coast Radio, so I wont go over them again. (Unless I do: seven men were arrested for spray-painting a municipal wall, for I think the fifth year in a row in remembrance of a dead friend, which they had been given permission to do so by the assumed owner and were publicly labeled gangsters, vandals and criminals)

    I would instead like to steer this debate in a direction I noticed a few people heading towards in the mahala comments section, but perhaps wasn’t fully fleshed out. This being the covert control of our mainstream media by globally networked elitist round-table groups. (dunn dunn dunnnn: The Bilderberg Group, The Illuminati, The New World Order and and and…)

    A quick search on wikipedia will give you all the info you need about one Tony O’Reilly (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_O'Reilly)

    “He is known for his involvement the Independent News & Media Group, which he led from 1973 to 2009. Perhaps Ireland’s first billionaire, a status lost in 2008-09, he remains one of Ireland’s richest citizens.”

    “In the 1990s INM bought into South Africa (from 1994),[21] Australia (from 1988) and New Zealand (from 1995), acquiring 38 newspaper titles, over 70 radio stations, cable and telecoms interests at a cost of around €1.3 billion”

    “On Friday 13 March 2009, it was announced that on O’Reilly’s 73rd birthday, 7 May, he would resign as both CEO and a member of the Board of INM, to be succeeded by his son, Gavin. Further, the often-criticised large size of the board would be reduced from 17 to 10, and would include three nominess of Denis O’Brien. These announcements were actioned, and O’Reilly became President Emeritus of the group”

    “He made contacts at high levels, which sometimes included becoming friendly with controversial figures such as Henry Kissinger and Robert Mugabe.”

    So what does this mean?

    Without boring you with all the details, which I could never properly explain in type and don’t have the time or inclination to try, (go to youtube and watch; The Obama Deception and Endgame) it means that our news-media printed here where I sit typing this right now, in Greyville (Daily News, The Mercury, Independent on Saturday, Sunday Tribune, POST, Isolezwe and Isolezwe Ngesonto) are largely directed by a single family in Ireland, with very close ties to the Kissingers and Rothschilds. The notorios elitists bent on world domination, population control and enslavement of the human race for their own benfit. Also: they kick puppies.

    So… what is the point of all this rambling?

    STAND UP, BE HEARD.

    If you rap, write a song about what’s happening, and upload it to youtube, soundcloud and every blog that’ll post it. If you’re an artist, do a relevant piece, whether on a wall or a canvas and put it where someone will see it, if you’re a promoter or club owner, have an awehness and benefit night for the seven guys affected, if you can use a keyboard, get on the blogs and comment sections of the papers and HAVE YOUR SAY!

    Don’t let apathy become a weapon of the oppressor. When your doors are one day being kicked in by armed “police” because you were a questionable member of society, flagged through your online presence, you’ll wish you had of said something when you still had the chance.

    FREEDOM DIES IF IT ISN’T USED.

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  11. […] Mahala’s Andy Davis did a follow up article here […]

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  12. BallieOne says:

    How come we tolerate all the useless marketing ‘information’ or in many cases ‘misinformation’ that the big brands paste all over our cities, newspapers, magazines, TVs, movies, clothes, billboards, sports stadiums etc, and then we get uptight when a couple of ‘graf’ artists put paint to concrete. The difference of course, is that the marketers have paid somebody big bucks for use of the space, and we must just smile and go buy their rubbish, a lot of which is probably not adding any value to our lives anyway. It’s just putting us deeper in debt and cluttering up the planet. I’d rather look at some cheeky graf piece under a freeway bridge than a 10 x 5 meter billboard advertising life insurance or throwaway razors. I draw the line at nasty scribbles over road signs though – that is vandalism. – BallieOne

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  13. YsterHart says:

    When everyone around you is shouting at you constantly, through billboards, t-shirts slogans, adverts, fashion, music, and adopted identities, you cant really blame kids if their first reaction is to try to shout louder.

    For my part, if even only one out of every ten kids shouting with crap tags, learns to step back and sing with great graffiti, then its worth having my neighborhood covered in scrawls.

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  14. Voice of Reason says:

    Great ca

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  15. Voice of Reason says:

    Great call to action Andy!

    Please come back down to reality all you against a few dudes painting a wall.
    This is not the space to settle an huge issue that is bigger than you.
    This is about some young men who face prison and prosecution over painting a legal wall.
    Have some decency and respect for these artists, their families and friends and support them in what ever way you can. If you’ve got beef with social ills, join the police, civil society or politics and go and sort that ish out.

    This ‘zwart gevaar’ mentality must go!

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  16. US of Arseholes says:

    Well said @ BallieOne. The advertising you speak of is mental pollution. I didn’t ask for it to be piut there and I don’t want to see it. Unfortunately I can’t walk around with my eyes closed…or in the case of the masses, with their eyes wide shut…

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  17. Anonymous says:

    it would be nice if people could forget their romantic notions and start thinking objectively about these things.
    Double standards.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    if those companies came and put a giant advert on your front garden, you’d be pissed too. Especially if they snuck in and did it without your knowledge or consent, and you then had to pay to get it removed.
    They pay for that right. They agree to it, there are contracts and proof. It isn’t done silently in the dead of night. They dont scale fences and trespass on private property and then go further by incurring costs on those involved. If it’s public property, the costs involved come out of everyone’s pockets, so everyone has a right to pass judgement. .
    No one claims billboards to be ‘art’ either. So it’s a pretty pointless comparison, and only serves as a benchmark example of how graffiti is a lawless and selfish ideal when expressed without regard.
    Art is subjective. the worlds not going to fall over trying to accommodate your doodles. I dont expect it within my medium, I dont know why others should in theirs.

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  19. 1 of the Seven.. says:

    First of all.. Thanks to every1 supporting our “situation”, I appreciate it and I’m sure the others do too.. Every one has their opinions, @ anonymous and yes maybe some of us have done illegal disdings and maybe still do but the point is, we got arrested for painting a “legal” wall which was organised years back and has been painted twice or more a year for the last 5 years with cops driving past or even stopping and never got arrested. The fact is, if there was 7 of us or 30 of us, we would have all been arrested. So was shit luck for us, maybe I should of stayed home. But if you are a graffiti artist or claim to be, if you were in our situation, we’d be helping you. So if you wana be a dick, be 1 but if you are a person who actually gives a fuck, you’d support our side. I wouldn’t want any1 to go to jail for something that isn’t worth the while? If we were vandalising property then yes. But we wernt. Secondly, graffiti belongs on the street. If the government spent their money on providing walls or legal spots for us to paint, we wouldn’t have to organise our own and face the bullshit of old people coming up to us, asking if we have permission (cause we would def be painting in the middle of the day) and hooting, calling the cops and quickly (frothing at the mouth) write down my number plate as they drive past. I do graffiti caus I love it!! Not because I’m trying to be a rebel, and go against society and make a difference. I prob cover up more vandalism with murals anyway, so at the end of the day, I’m spending my own money painting over vandalism whether it was mine or the kid next door and make shit look pretty!! Some mite not agree, and I pity you but that is my opinion. Thirdly, we all have lives to live. We chose this path (wonderful hobby) and will keep choosing it cz we follow what we love, we’ve worked our way to where we are and it is well deserved. So the court case is happening in a few weeks, (scary) but there’s no need to be fighting with each other over the internet. If you want to make a difference, change, movement or noise, then please DO if you don’t, stop wasting your time on this site and irritating the people that actually care about our scene. Thanks to every1 who is supporting us!! Respect and much love! And know WE GOT BIG things cumin. Believe me!!

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  20. Anya says:

    @Anonymous

    It’s not about assumptions. I will take the word of people I trust, which is a lot more than just Ewok. I will listen to a person who has the courage to stand up and fight for something they believe in enough to put their names behind it. These kids need someone to be on their side… wish more people would give them the benefit of the doubt.

    So your friends don’t hang out with an Anya? Well mine don’t hang out with an Anonymous.

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  21. […] week) following the arrest of a group of local graffiti artists – now being referred to as the ‘031 Aerosol Seven’. Labelled as vandals and delinquents by the media, branded as criminals by the police and hailed as […]

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  22. anonymous bob says:

    you should paint a huge penis. thatl really get your message across

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  23. Curtis says:

    I got a wall – anyone want to make do something on it…4 x 4mt in prime durban north!

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  24. […] week) following the arrest of a group of local graffiti artists – now being referred to as the ‘031 Aerosol Seven’. Labelled as vandals and delinquents by the media, branded as criminals by the police and hailed as […]

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  25. Jenny says:

    Have you seen today’s Witness? Who was the person who handed himself in?

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  26. jeff randles says:

    I hear the cops arrested an oke who lives close to me – apparently picked the poor bugger up at 3am in the morning, waking the neighbours up and causing hell.

    the oke they claim the police are after is well known – pity he was stupid enough to get caught on CCTV while bombing a temple with the roughest SRC tags ever. figure he’s going to be “slightly removed” from society for a good while

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  27. bruce says:

    Murray Cowan is the oke they “arrested.” Cant be great PI’s if they cannot find Matt Lee – he works in Umhlanga

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  28. bruce says:

    one thing i reckon is likelly – someone is acting as a paid informer. someone is either taking money for selling out his mates or else getting off some other charges for informing

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  29. bruce says:

    i mean how else could they know that FTO is murray? he’s not used that tag for years and years? how else did they know to put CCTV on the temple and the dutch reformed church in umbilo?

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  30. Anony-mouse says:

    Bruce are you the guy that does all the undercover cameras?

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  31. Anon says:

    Matt Lee – Caikad and ALT – handed himself over this morning to the pigs….. Hear the cops now after his boet

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  32. Anon says:

    Bet the shit flows now. Lee and Cowan havent appeared in court – how much anyone want to bet they have cut a deal to get off their charges.

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  33. KeepyKrawly says:

    You guys needa get your facts straight, hahahaha you got the right info, but you mixing it all up! Silly people! Espesialy the guy who said matt lee is caikad and they looking for his brother!! Wake the fuck up bro

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  34. Reed says:

    I need to Graffiti my scooter, could you guys help? You could advertise at the same time

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  35. Gary says:

    please phone Gary on 0833252618 would like graffiti wall in our workshop

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