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Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

by Samora Chapman / Images by Karen Logan / 16.08.2011

It was an icy Sunday morning. A handful of graffiti writers gathered to paint what everyone thought was a legal wall on Sydney Road, downtown Durban. The event had been organised weeks earlier and was openly publicized on various social networks. It wasn’t an ordinary graffiti jam. They were gathered to paint the name of a 17 year old kid, a comrade artist, Wesley Fischer aka Eiy5, who was hit by a steaming 18 wheeler truck and killed nearly five years ago.

You wouldn’t know any of this had you read the papers yesterday, although it was widely reported.

The Natal Mercury frontpage barked the headline: “Graffiti gang caught red-handed”

While Paul Kirk reported in the Citizen that: “Seven men, believed to be among South Africa’s most destructive and lawless graffiti vandals, were arrested in Durban yesterday – while allegedly in the middle of a vandalism spree.”

Durban Graffiti

The situation on the ground was a little different from the salacious and hysterical tone of these newspaper reports. Imagine a group of creative Durban youths, assembled on a sidewalk on a Sunday, sipping quarts, listening to beats, doing what they love, remembering a lost homey.

Suddenly a massive squadron of Metro cops and private investigators swoop and bundle them into the backs of police vans, while they were busy choosing the best colours to blend against the cold grey sky. Another fine example of Durban’s war on public art.

Truth is, no sane graffiti writer would stand in broad daylight in the middle of the industrial Durban downtown painting a piece illegally. Durban law enforcement has come down hard on illegal graffiti of late, and two of the artists are already on 5 year suspended sentences. It’s not like they’d risk jail to brazenly paint a wall in broad daylight. Instead this was a group of graffiti artists whose intention was to uplift a dilapidated, crime-ridden area with a graffiti mural, to honour a friend’s memory.

Durban Graffiti

The wall in question has been layered with paint for the past five years. It was legalised so long ago that any permission slip has long since been used as a mull-pad or crumpled up and drop kicked into an ally. Although the group had received permission from the wall’s owner previously, it now appears that the wall had been leased from the municipality and so permission was not the individual’s to give. The idea was, nonetheless, that this was a legal arrangement.

Furthermore, the majority of these writers are the older generation and are not the kids who are bombing the city at present. The kids who are bombing were dossing in their mom’s pad that Sunday morning, wrecked from being up all night getting loose with fat cap tags. I would know. The cats who were arrested were up at 8am doing a burner legal wall with full colours and sketchbooks in hand. Only to be accosted, harassed, humiliated and dragged off to the pits. Depicted as a gang in the media, and treated as flight risks.

They were not going on a city-wide orgy of destruction. It was not a covert, midnight “gang” operation and they are certainly not the most destructive and lawless graffiti vandals in the country.

Sensational gutter “journalism” like this just gives the fat cat argument for a draconian Protection of Information Bill to control the media more teeth. The media are really doing themselves no favours here.

Durban Graffiti Gangs

I headed down to the Umbilo station with a churning stomach. A mixture of fear and dread. As I arrive, the detective addresses me by name.

“Good to see you again Mr Chapman.” He smiles. The corpulent 7ft tall detective, with a handlebar moustache, was frothing with excitement at his “big catch”.

A little media research on the accused would have shown that they are all bonafide artists. Mookie Chapman, my brother, is a professional artist and a fine art student. He’s well known in the art scene as a muralist and portrait painter. He is already making a living out of commissioned family portraits as well as corporate, private and government funded murals. He is only 23. Two of the other cats are successful graphic designers, another is Durban’s most killer surfboard airbrush artist. Another is a working civil engineer. Hardly the gang of “South Africa’s most destructive and lawless graffiti vandals in the middle of a vandalism spree.”

Another artist, Phillip Botha is in the real shit as he’s being accused of violating his probation period – a five-year suspended sentence. If this travesty stands, they may be sentencing Phillip to a stint in Westville Prison. I have graffiti eyes and I can testify that he has not done as much as a wicked scribble on a bathroom stall since his previous conviction.

Back outside the station the detective tells me he’s got evidence of 150 counts of vandalism – video footage, photographs, statements, his sidekick clutching the file with the evidence like she’s holding the Holy Grail itself.

The obvious question is don’t the police have something better to do with their time than chase suburban art fags.

Durban Graffiti Gangs

Once in the station, the blatant irony of the situation became strikingly apparent. A young lady bursts into the charge office in a state of hysteria. Her toddler was with her violent ex-boyfriend and they could not be located. She begged the police to accompany her to the man’s house as she was too afraid to go alone. “Where is your father?” Retorted the cop. For the next 15 minutes the cop proceeded to question and invalidated the woman’s pleas until she finally broke down in tears and begged “please, just please come with me to pick up my child. I don’t want to go alone.” The cop finally agreed, like some kind petulant guardian with far better things to do with his time.

Meanwhile, seven graffiti writers were being interrogated, fingerprinted and detained by the brave and hard working members of the force.

Today the newspapers are backpedaling on yesterday’s sensationalism. As Durban graffiti and hip hop artist Iain Ewok Robinson says, “I would expect nothing less. Two follow up articles today in the paper, this is how they sell mainstream media, they print hype stories using words like ‘gang’ and then follow up with a moderated story the next day so you have to buy both! It’s bullshit, toothless, weak, system fucked tabloid shite!” And largely, he’s right.

“Rapping is my radio / Graffiti is my TV / B-boys keep those windmills breezy.” – Aesop Rock.

Durban Graffiti Gangs

*Get involved. The story has already provoked a response in protest. A new website called Gangs of Graffiti has been launched in an attempt to showcase and profile these artists and dispel the idea that these are gang members. Stay tuned for the peaceful protest when the artists go to court.

**All images © Karen Logan and Samora Chapman.

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  1. GiffyD says:

    No need for such hostility, we both love legal graffiti…I respect those who bomb, but i dont support it. So dont throw a little temper tantrim. I myself am proud to be a legal only graffiti artist, i just know that it is not worth it. I was supposed to paint that day but i was running late, i got there and nobody was there, just half done pieces. If i had arrived an hour or 2 earlier i would also be in this mess….Samora-i agree fully. Hope things turn out for the good with you and your other half.. Peace

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  2. Ho Chin Min says:

    Drinking in public … Criminal. Tsk tsk.

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  3. Derek Smith says:

    I commented on this issue shortly after Mahala published Samora Chapman’s piece. At that time I did not know who the reporter was and stated that it was sensationalism at best. I read all the pro’s and cons in the reponses with great interest as street-art is a special interest of mine and I’ve spend a lot of time in Jozi and Cape Town photographing pieces.

    I was astounded at Mr Kirk’s comments in his thread and found this interesting link with a Google search – It seems as if Mr Kirk sometimes walks a very thin line when it comes to verifying his facts.


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  4. Derek Smith says:

    “It is most unfortunate that some in the media were more interested in rushing to print before our investigations had been concluded. Given this behaviour by particularly Paul Kirk and Gavin Forster and that they have refused to subscribe to basic professional the municipality will in future not work with them at all in providing them with any information they require from the municipality. It would appear that they are pursuing agendas unknown to us but which are certainly not agendas followed by professional journalists.”

    For those that does not want to spend too much time reading the whole report.

    I rest my case. This will also come to pass

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  5. quin says:


    Dr. Michael Sutcliffe, City Manager



    A number of reports appeared in the media during May and June 2006, initiated by Mr. Paul Kirk a journalist from the Citizen newspaper.  The reports made dramatic claims, in particular that:

    * guns from eThekwini Police had been sold and used in the shooting of Constable Cherise Cox;
    * tens, if not hundreds, of guns were missing from the control of Metropolitan Police.

    Subsequently, a number of other allegations were made revolving around specific personnel in the employ of Metropolitan Police.

    Given the seriousness of these claims the City Manager decided to conduct his own investigations into these matters and not engage through the media until such time as the investigations were completed.

    As some of these matters have been investigated and concluded, this report deals with the following:

    * The allegation that guns used in the shooting of Constable Cherise Cox were sold to criminals;
    * The allegations made about Metropolitan Police personnel.

    A further audit on the guns under the responsibility of Metropolitan Police will be provided at a later stage given that the ICD is completing its own investigation and they have requested that I do not report on my own investigation until they have reported to me.  That report will also cover the issue of the so-called holding area.

    Quite separately, over the past six months the City Manager has initiated a number of other processes involving Metropolitan Police.  Broadly, these processes have focused on the management of Metropolitan Police and the final section of this report summarises that process.


    On 30 July 2003, the following happened:

    * PC Mthetwa and PC Zimu were on duty and traveling on the Western Freeway when they were flagged down by 3 occupants in a white City Golf ND 527890.
    * The hijackers held them up, removed their firearms and car keys and made a getaway
    * A member of the public called 10111 and stopped at the scene.
    * Constable Govender heard the report on his radio and then arrived at the scene where an elderly white man told him he had witnessed the robbery and phoned 10111.  Constables Govender and Mthetwa then gave chase in a southerly direction and PC Zimu was left with the vehicle.
    * A Constable Govender from the radio control room confirmed that these radio conversations occurred.
    * Sgt. Mkhize was on duty near Edwin Swales Drive, heard the report on the radio, saw the suspects drive past and he gave chase ending up in Umlazi where he lost them.  He saw them again in G section and again lost them.
    * Constables gave statements and a case file opened at Umbilo CAS 722/07/2003. 

    On 13 August 2003, the following happened:

    * A Metro Police crew including Constable Cherise Cox responded to a hijacking.  In this incident she was shot and an alleged hijacker fatally shot. * At the scene a firearm was recovered in possession of one of the suspects.  Later on another firearm was recovered from the home of one of the suspects.  Both firearms were the ones reported stolen in the incident above. * SAPS Brighton Beach opened a case file CAS 293/08/2003.

    The late Inspector Chinsamy then investigated the robbery of the firearms and all indications are that he was satisfied that the firearms had been stolen as per the sworn statements received from the policemen as indicated above.

    In 2004, a rumour surfaced in Metro Police that in fact the two guns had been sold to the criminals.  In particular, I had received a letter from the attorney of Constable Cox in which the allegation was recorded.  The Ombudsperson referred the matter to Metro Police and Sgt. Naicker from Internal Affairs investigated the matter and came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that these police firearms had been sold.

    In May 2006, after having had the matter again referred to Metro Police by myself, Sgt. Chin undertook an investigation and again obtained sworn affidavits from all key parties, after which he came to the same conclusion: that there was no evidence that the guns had been sold.  This investigation included a request from me to Commissioner Chiliza from SAPS who reviewed all the relevant dockets and came to the same conclusion.

    In May 2006, an affidavit came to my attention signed by one Bruce David MacInnes, Detective Inspector of SAPS who is the Investigating Officer in Brighton Beach CAS293/08/2003, attempted murder of Constable Cherise Cox and S. Murray.  In this affidavit he claims that one of the accused Simphiwe Shezi made a report to him eleven months previously that the deceased criminal Sithembiso Mnyando had bought two 9mm pistols from “two black male on duty Metro Police Officers in Durban” and that these were the pistols used in the shooting of Constable Cox.  He appears to be Paul Kirk’s source as well as the person who is behind the dissemination of this rumour to white police personnel in Metro Police.  He is also widely quoted in an article written by Paul Kirk in the latest issue of Noseweek.

    Interestingly, Mr. MacInnes’ affidavit was made on 27 July 2004, some 11 months after the shooting of Constable Cox and his obtaining this so-called information from one of the suspects. It appears he did nothing with that information except provide it to a select group of persons from Metro Police and almost two years later it gets into the hands of the City Manager and only after that into the hands of senior personnel in SAPS.

    Together with other matters pertaining to these cases, I have brought this to the attention of senior SAPS personnel and this is the first time they have seen such an affidavit and it does not appear in any of the CAS documentation in this matter.  They are pursuing the matter as a SAPS investigation.

    In my own investigations I have found that all aspects of the affidavits given by Constables Zimu and Mthetwa have been corroborated.  Not only are there a number of participants who have confirmed that the theft in fact occurred, but interestingly their claim that the criminals used a car with registration ND 527980 is borne out as it refers to a car which had been hijacked from a Mr. Grossett in Amanzimtoti on 23 July 2003 (CAS 444/07/2003) by three armed robbers.  Constables Zimu and Mthetwa recorded the make, colour, type and numberplate of this car which was the same as a car robbed a week earlier.  Also, on the day in which the robbery occurred, the two policemen were working together for the first time because Constable Zimu’s partner was not available that day.

    It appears then that Mr. MacInnes has played a major part in both creating and allowing the dissemination of the rumour that two Metro Policemen sold the guns to the criminals who shot Constable Cox.  Interestingly, as the Investigator in her shooting he has never interviewed either of the two policemen to find out their side of the story, has never contacted Metro Police management or the City Manager about these allegations and apparently had not even included this report in his case files. Why have they never been charged as accessories before the fact?

    Instead, he has allowed great harm to be done to both Constables Mthetwa and Zimu and indeed also to Constable Cox who believed to this day that she could have been shot with guns sold to criminals by her colleagues.  This public denigration and vilification is a theme running throughout this matter and the media have unwittingly or wittingly been the conveyors of these untruths. The municipality reserves its rights to take action against all who may have continued to disseminate these untrue allegations.

    Untrue claims reported by the media around this matter:

    While there are many details which have been reported in the media about this matter which are untrue, the following are simply some of the claims made by the media which are simply untrue and I believe are defamatory:

    * Paul Kirk, May 5 2006, Citizen: made the claim that the gunmen involved in the shooting of Constable Cox claimed they had bought the guns from crooked Metro Policemen.  As indicated above, this claim is simply not true.  Paul Kirk does not indicate it is based on an affidavit from one detective who made the affidavit some 11 months after he apparently obtained it from the suspects.
    * Paul Kirk, Citizen: Made claim that Ms. Cox had not been visited in hospital by senior Metro Police personnel after her shooting.  According to our records she was visited by senior members of management including Supt. T Van Heerden, Regional Commander S. Edwards and Regional Commander K. Naidoo.
    * Gavin Forster, 12 May 2006: Claimed that a member of my staff visited Constable Cox soon after the Citizen and Mercury stories broke, whilst she was in intensive care…and tried to get her to sign documentation to the effect that her emotional problems are unrelated to her horrific experiences as a Durban Metro Police Officer. He also claimed that SAPS had informed Metro Police about the claim that suspects said the weapons had been bought from us.  Both are simply not true.  He also repeated the claims being made by Paul Kirk and refused to accept that answers would only be given once our investigation was complete.
    * Paul Kirk, 13 May 2006: Witness Weekend: Names the two Metro Policemen and says that “Metro cops Thembinkosi Mthetwa and Sthembiso Zimu the men who allegedly sold their guns to the murderous thugs who maimed Cox are still on duty and armed”.  I believe this is not only defamatory but does not using MacInnes’ affidavit without identifying him and applying even the most basic of journalistic tests in evaluating that piece of information.
    * Paul Kirk 17 May 2006: Claimed that he was thrown out of EXCO on 16 May 2006.  This is simply not true.  EXCO went into committee.
    * Paul Kirk, 5 June 2006: Claimed that the City Manager had offered Cherise Cox a medical boarding package of a little over R90000 in lump sum and R6000 per month.  Claimed that this was not morally defensible given that the City Manager earns R90000 per month.  This is simply untrue.  Constable Cox called our Human resources and asked what her package would be if she was to apply for medical boarding.  She was then provided with that information.  In dealing with Constable Cox I have consistently indicated to her that our priority is to assist her to get better and once we have sorted out her medical situation we would look at opportunities in eThekwini municipality which will ensure she remains a productive and committed member of our administration.
    * Paul Kirk, 5 June 2006: Claimed that the city ignored a sworn statement from the SAPS Serious and Violent Crimes Unit to the effect that Simphiwe Shezi, a former armed robber, had given the SAPS information on how metro cops had sold their guns to his heist gang.  This is simply not true and the so-called affidavit, drawn up eleven months after Inspector MacInnes apparently heard this from the criminals does not even appear in the SAPS dockets and senior SAPS personnel had not heard of it until I provided them with a copy in July 2006.  He appears not to have acted on the information.

    These are but some of the incorrect media reports.  It is most unfortunate that some in the media were more interested in rushing to print before our investigations had been concluded.  Given this behaviour by particularly Paul Kirk and Gavin Forster and that they have refused to subscribe to basic professional  the municipality will in future not work with them at all in providing them with any information they require from the municipality.  It would appear that they are pursuing agendas unknown to us but which are certainly not agendas followed by professional journalists.


    * That EXCO note this report;
    * That in the first instance steps be taken to ensure that the injustice done to Constables Zimu, Mthetwa and Cox is addressed and that ways be found to counteract the effects these rumours have had on Metro Police members more generally;
    * That action be taken against those who have either defamed members of the municipality or who have brought our municipality into disrepute through irresponsible reporting and claims being made;


    Particularly Paul Kirk has made a whole set of claims about Metro Police personnel.  Each has been investigated by me and they include for example, claims about Eugene Nzama, Head: Metro Police, in which he has argued that the Head: Metro Police does not fulfil the requirements to hold the post in terms of legislation, and also that: (i) he worked as a gate guard at UDW, (ii) does not have a SA matric certificate, and (iii) that he held posts and studied at various military institutions in Russia.  The way in which stories have been written have clearly been in order to try and discredit the Head: Metro Police and suggest that he is not competent to be the head of our service.

    For the record, the Head: Metro Police was properly appointed and fulfils the requirements of Regulation 6554 11/6/99.  In this regard, the National Police Commissioner created a course for senior officers in Metro Police units throughout the country and the Head: Metro Police has passed this course.

    A whole set of allegations were received making claims about the following members of Metro Police:

    * Senior Constable CT Ngcobo
    * Dees Govender
    * Sgt. Simone Gregory
    * Sgt. V. Moodley
    * Inspector Winnie Zama
    * Director Ashley Dove
    * Elaine Harold
    * Deputy Head: Steve Middleton
    * Deputy Head: Tutus Malaza
    * Inspector Msomi
    * Constable Wiseman Sibusio Mpisane
    * Supt. Subramoney
    * Sgt. KC Naicker.

    The allegations ranged in each case from claims that one of some of these members were involved in corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, favouritism, maladministration and the like.  In each case senior members of Human Resources have investigated the matters and from the reports given to me I am satisfied that all matters have been properly handled by Metro Police and the claims made are not justified.

    Interestingly, except for one of the persons targeted only black members of the force are being targeted by Mr. Paul Kirk and either his sources are only providing him with selective information to paint a particular scenario or he is deliberately distorting information provided to him by his sources.

    In future, we will not waste valuable municipal resources in responding to such queries unless media or other questioners provide us with the actual documentation they have and ask us to verify or explain it.


    * That EXCO note this report;


    On 4 January 2006 SAMWU wrote to the City Manager asking that a Commission of Inquiry be established.  On 31 January 2006 I wrote back asking them for concrete information which could allow me to make a determination in this regard.  I reminded them on 30 May 2006 but no such information has been provided to me.


    * That EXCO note this report;


    A number of meetings were held between the City Manager and the top management of Metro Police, focussing on their roles and responsibilities.  It became clear that while on paper their roles were being addressed a number of problem areas existed ranging from concerns over how some matters were managed as well as what their overall strategic orientation was.  At the same time, my concern was that I was receiving a increasing number of allegations of a lack of discipline, low morale, corruption and some specific management problems which had come to my attention.

    Our first step was to establish from senior management:
    * Their level of understanding of their roles and responsibilities by the management of Metro Police;
    * The cause of the current fragmentation of relationships between and within management and staff; and 
    * The challenges faced by Metro Police from a human resources perspective

    One-on-one discussions were held with eleven members of the management team of Metro Police, specifically those whose current job titles are defined in the organogram below. The interviews were semi-structured, utilizing a pre-drafted questionnaire to guide the discussions, however enabling participants to share information that they felt was pertinent to the discussions at hand.


    What emerged to be some of the key issues in Metro Police were:

    * Structure – whilst the organizational structure is clear on paper, it is either not often accepted by everyone, different people by-passing the reporting lines or some of the positions listed are not occupied. There are also a number of critical positions that are vacant, this reducing the effectiveness and proper functionality of the Metro Police
    * Employment Contracts – The existence of different contractual terms, that is those at the senior management being different to the rest of the cluster, resulted to lack of cohesion and mutual support for objectives and commitment to the successful operation. The issue in this instance is that of short-term contracts that have defined performance measures whilst the bulk of the staff at Metro Police have permanent positions with less defined performance requirements.
    * Communication – Improved communication is required, especially in the areas of staff development, training and pursuing properly disciplinary processes against those who have erred.
    * Discipline and Mutual Trust – The majority of those interviewed expressed concern at a lack of discipline and support between the various levels and amongst the senior management of the Metro Police. Discipline was regarded as a key problem given: –
    o Lack of daily inspections (absenteeism, dress code, timekeeping, ammunition, distribution of vehicles, sign off of pocket books)
    o Misconduct being the expressed route cause for disharmony in the establishment. Misconduct either was inappropriately handled or was not addressed at all. As a result of this perceived lack of attention to misconduct, the level of trust amongst management and staff members was found to be very low.
    * Training Academy – The Police Academy is not recognised as effective in terms of upholding the standards for effective Policing. According to some of the respondents the academy did not offer sufficient accredited training programmes and was inadequately run. These issues negatively impacted on strengthening the discipline and effective policing principles required in the Metro Police.
    * Low Morale – Interviewees suggested that some of the causes for low morale in the establishment could be due to perceptions that people with less skills/ experience were promoted, selection criteria were problematic and that some persons were not performing but still get their full pay

    As a result we have initiated a process to address each of these matters including:

    * Ensuring there is clear strategic direction and all management are firmly organized to effect those strategies; * That the organizational structure should be reviewed and developed to support the strategic intent; * That where necessary employee contracts should be standardized/harmonized where the performance management system needs to apply consistently; * There should be no ambiguity in understanding of reporting lines and strategic role of management; * Corporate governance should be strengthened by the provision of guidelines from the Council and cluster head in terms of management meeting approach (standardized agenda), record keeping and accountability; * The recruitment selection criteria should be more in line with strict discipline and  commitment measures required in a policing environment; * Focussing on the training & development of police in the issues of accreditation and proper qualified personnel to administer such training. This would greatly assist in enhancing the effectiveness and discipline commensurate with responsibilities within the policing environment; * The role of human resources needs to be strengthened in areas of disciplinary, grievance handling; counseling; facilitation of management and proper recording of IOD; general visibility within the establishment is critical. * Consistency in treatment within the establishment as a whole is critical – areas that need special attention include performance management system, employment contracts, disciplinary measures; * Motivational and team development tools should be explored for the entire establishment. * That specific attention n must be paid by senior management to Occupational Health and Safety and Injured on Duty matters.  Internal reports in this regard have been provided to management and it is expected that the recommendations be acted upon.

    That process is underway and I have no doubt will address weaknesses and improved strategic focus.


    * That EXCO note this report

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  6. quin says:

    Sorry could not resist. Paul Kirk you dick

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  7. Sarah Dee says:


    And the anwer is that it would become chaos.
    The world would enter a state of anarchy.”

    Two things, crazyeyes:

    1.Hyperbole is the domain of zealots. And zealots are never to be trusted. For anything. I’m arguing for a subtlety of understanding which is so sorely lacking in the anti-graff arguments presented here so far. There are reasonable ones to be made, but they haven’t been made here.

    2.You’re clearly one of those neurotics who sees the slightest change or challenge as hailing a large scale collapse of society. You cling to what you know, because order is fragile and external. If people like you had there way, we’d still be disallowing black people from swimming at the beach, or women from getting the vote. A little paint, even if its not to your taste, is not going to cause the apocalypse.

    I’ll ignore your nail painting comment because its just… kinda pathetic.

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  8. Mike Scott says:

    I’m not a graffiti artist, but I think something that’s also a factor here is … a lot of graffiti sucks. If a lot of it was beautiful and well-thought out and performed by skilled professionals, not so many people may complain. But a lot of stuff I’ve seen by ‘good’ local graffiti artists just isn’t anything I really like. I get the feeling that a graffiti artists argument that they’re ‘uplifting’ the community I think is sometimes somewhat the opposite really. -BUT- if its a designated graffiti wall, then go nuts I guess. Sounds like these people found themselves in the middle of a) drinking in public b) thinking the wall was ok to work on and c) being made an example of.

    Remember – if someone doesn’t like your work it may not be because they’re close-minded. It may be because your work sucks.

    (steps off soap box)

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  9. kezzalee says:

    Ewok on east coast radio breakfast show between 7~8 speaking on behalf of all durbans writers it will be worth da listen. Thanks for ur offer paul kirk but we have our own TRUSTED platform. You might wana tune in and get some some facts ? Just a thought………

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  10. death says:

    ill never forget my first impression of taking the train from jfk to nyc…
    miles of this so called art along the walls was all i could see as i looked out that window.
    and im sure nyc has a lot more ‘talent’ than durban.

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  11. death says:

    nice interview on ecr…
    lets resolve this. any of those arrested deserve to be arrested for anything?
    broken any laws, ever?

    me personally i hate the state and all laws. anytime you wanna do anything that goes against any of them you are just gonna have to do it with face masks on and risk this happening each and every time. laws aint gonna change cos there are way too many over50s that hate graffiti..

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  12. crazyeyes says:

    @Sara Dee. I’m black. And a woman.

    And you’re clearly the type of person who makes assumptions. Where I like to seek truth.

    And I find you, kinda pathetic.

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  13. crazyeyes says:

    @ GiffyD – you’re right I lost my cool there. Apologies. Much respect to you. I’m out of here- got a flight to the west coast to catch. Hope the artists just get a slap on the wrist and get a chance to swallow their pride and ask for what they want with honest law abiding hearts.
    Respect others and what is theirs and respect yourself and live free!

    Peace 031!

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  14. jill says:

    Condolances to all artists suppressed by the state, ” They will never win.” Respect to Joeg , Karen and Ewok for being our voice.

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  15. Kirsty says:

    Graffiti vs. vandalism
    Undoubtedly many will have different views on graffiti as an art form:
    Some say its vandalism and others say its art- and then there are a lot of people whom are ill educated when it comes to telling the difference between the two.

    I couldn’t find more simple definitions then those of the oxford’s dictionary.
    • Art: the use of the imagination to express ideas or feelings, particularly in paint and drawing.
    • Graffiti: drawings or writing on a wall etc, in a public space
    • Vandalism: the crime of destroying or damaging something especially public property deliberately and for no good reason
    As there are different views on graffiti, there are different sides of graffiti too.
    There is the artistic side, where murals are painted and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and then there is vandalism, where property is defaced, tagged and damaged. The one is a legitimate and accepted art form worldwide, and the other is illegal.

    Taking the above mentioned definitions of the words in to account, one could say: the gentlemen who were drawing/writing/painting on a public space to express ideas and feelings about their loss of a friend were taking part in graffiti art.

    Not all graffiti artists are vandals, and not all vandals are graffiti artists.
    Even the inartistic average Joe who callously scrapes or draws on school desks or bathroom doors, or those who put up handmade or professional signs(and even newspaper bill boards) on light poles, are guilty of vandalism, damaging public property and wasting the taxpayers’ money.


    About 5 years ago, a group of artists approached whom they thought was the owner of a wall on Sydney road, and verbally proposed to uplift, paint and maintain that wall. These artists received his permission to paint the wall at their own expense, supplying their own art supplies, paint and time. These artists have painted that wall ever since.
    They have primed and painted that wall on many occasions and maintained it as if it were their own, as there are few walls which these artists have been given the opportunity to paint- legally and legitimately.

    As many know, Sydney road is a very dilapidated part of Durban’s streets, and is notorious for the crimes committed on and around it, from drugs, to abductions, rapes to murders.
    Many people who travel along, and pass the wall, may agree that the art work found on this wall brings a sense of community and beatifies the down ridden area.
    The artists who have painted that wall have painted it for a good cause each and every time; on previous occasions they have painted walls for women’s day, memorial walls and brought about general awareness of the on goings in South Africa.
    Each time the police have driven passed and made no comment, but on Sunday the 15th of August 2011,the seven gentlemen who went down to Sydney Road to paint a memorial mural for a mutual friend (who had died in a car accident) were arrested on charges of MI2P (malicious intent to property). Note- there was NO malicious intent.
    The wall, unbeknown to the artists, apparently falls into municipal property.

    I went through to Umbilo police station on Sunday, and I must say I have never been so embarrassed to be a South African resident in my entire life.

    While bail was being determined for the 7 artists, a distraught woman entered the police station. She came in begging and pleading for the saps’ help, initially brushed off and then being interrogated by a “officer” for the next fifteen minutes or so , just to be handed on to another policeman…
    my heart went out to this woman…
    she was there to report a real crime, a crime of violence, and not being helped at all while 7ARTISTS received the “full” attention of +- 4 out of 10 police officers on duty, ( while the other 6 police men gave their complete and utter attention to their cell phones and counter tops-sleeping).

    When I approached the same ignoramus brute of a man, who brushed the distraught victim of a real crime off, he immediately judged me by my baggy hoody and cap. I was told I was 16 and shouldn’t be at the police station. Angered yet slightly amused by the fact that I am 25 with a degree in criminology and psychology, and probably more suited to fulfil his position at the police station, I asked what the proceedings were from that point forward. To which all those waiting for a response received nothing more than a grunt and a “wait”.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed such absurd behaviour from some of our local “heroes”: on a previous occasion I went to report a sexual/indecent assault which I had witnessed. While the perpetrator was in the area, we assumed that the police would catch the perp., only to have the victim and I interrogated for half an hour and then told to think about changing our minds on opening the case- the perpetrator is still on the streets of Durban and in public eye view every day.
    So my heart really goes out to the victims of real crimes in Durban, especially when those who are meant to protect us, are so reluctant to stop real crime.

    In all honesty, and I’m sure I don’t stand alone on this:
    When I walk down an alley or a street, I’m not afraid of graffiti…

    Whilst I understand that the Saps have a job to do, and once the charge had been laid they had to follow it up, I do feel that there was not enough evidence brought forward to make legal graffiti a criminal investigation.

    This morning, while listening to “Ewok” discuss this matter on East Coast radio, and hearing what the inspector’s arguments were, I was even more disheartened by the lack of common sense the SAPS have, and the evidence they are putting forward to mark these men as vandals and criminals.
    The inspector argued that the men who were involved covered their faces, and were obviously up to no good. To reiterate Ewok’s point, the men were using aerosol cans- which most of the general public know is not meant to be inhaled. Even someone who refurbishes the paint work on cars wear masks, or items of clothing to cover their mouths and nose- this does not mean that he/she is up to no good.
    For all who don’t know about paint, let me quote a few of the precautions labelled on the back of a spray can:
    DANGER EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE. CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE. VAPOURS HARMFUL. Vapours can cause narcotic effects such as drowsiness, dizziness and headache. Inhaling the contents for long periods of time maybe harmful or fatal. Irritating to eyes, respiratory tract and skin. Repeat exposure may cause skin dryness or cracking. Do not breathe dust, vapours or spray mists. Avoid contact with skin, eyes and clothing. ALWAYS WEAR APPROPRIATE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING GLOVES, SAFETY GLASSES/GOGGLES AND MASKS.

    I do believe that the saps are grasping at short straws for evidence and backing.

    Newspapers: spread truth and fact (?)

    Not only were the 7 artists arrested, they were also slaughtered, defamed and libelled by the newspapers, naming them as, and making them out to be, gang members and vandals.

    Now I’m not a rocket scientist, but I do have more than an ounce of common sense…
    Anyone who goes out to vandalise property, would not do so in plain eye view nor advertise a “vandalism spree” on all social networks inviting people to join them.
    They would go out late at night, when no one is around to see them and make a run for it at the first sign of being caught. They also would be far less than willing to accompany masses of police vans and private investigators, which swooped in on them, back to the police station.

    These gentlemen obviously were under the impression that the wall was a legal space for them to paint, as they had received permission to do so. The event was an open invitation for all who knew Wesley, and for those who wanted to pay their respect.
    If they had any inkling that it was illegal or municipal property (especially those whom have priors or previous sentences), they would not have even conceived the thought of painting the wall let alone painted it.

    Speaking of those with previous sentences,
    In every article written, about these graffiti artists the journalists add an extra flare of sensationalism to market their paper.
    The papers pride themselves on bringing truth to the community, yet the majority of the articles were full of felonious accusations and comments without factual backing.
    Previous comments regarding one of the artists being the “don” or “king-pin” of the graffiti scene is beyond humorous to those who know what they are talking about, and misleading to those who don’t. Adding “gang members” and words with similar definitions to the mix make artists look like mafia members, thugs, social and violent deviants.
    To add salt to the wound, the journalists keep mentioning one artist’s father, punishing both father and son with journalistic sensationalism- when the father clearly was not wielding a spray can and “vandalising” Durban city on previous nor recent occasions. I struggle to find the relevance of whom or what the father is and what his position or social standing has to do with anything.
    This artist, of whom I speak, had his day in court, he is finalising his term of house arrest and has in no way or form violated his parole.
    Since his day in court, he has settled down and become a family man, and has been using his art form as a means of income.
    Corporate companies have utilised his skills and services, and he has been a part of uplifting the community, and performing services and lending his skills to children’s homes, non-profit organisations and even did some of the art work for an international star casted movie which was being filmed in and around Durban this year.
    He has turned over a new leaf, and should be commended for rehabilitating himself and other graffiti artists, ensuring that graffiti art is used for upliftment instead of mindless vandalism.

    The other artists are young professionals who utilise their talent amongst the corporate world.
    Some artists have been commissioned by well know respectable companies to appear in their televised and still adverts, i.e. Mr Price and absa, others were asked to paint at the Mr Price pro, which is a televised festival- reaching all different countries and people of many different walks of life. Many of these artists have painted murals in restaurants and night clubs, from hillcrest right through to Durban.
    A lot of the artists have painted murals for churches, schools and non profit organisations- free of charge.
    Others were approached by surrounding municipalities and asked to paint murals, and were asked to tender quotes for their art work on municipal walls and bridges.
    (I do find it strange that one municipality is so anti graffiti art, when others are willing to explore and exhibit the local artists’ talents)

    Their art and art form is obviously becoming socially accepted by most- and understandably so. Any avid art connoisseur or the average Joe can see how much talent and skill goes into these artworks canvassed on brick and cement.

    Not just the newspapers to blame for the stigma placed on our local artists:

    I know for a fact that many of these artists and other artists in and around Durban have attempted to put forth a proposal to beatify Durban’s walls, bridges and other structures, and have been turned down. I also know that these artists have asked repeatedly for legal and legitimate permission from property owners, the municipality and Durban’s city manager for a public space to paint, bringing kids off the street and teaching the community about graffiti as an art form, only to be denied any form of compromise.

    In closing, there are a few questions which I feel the municipality should enlighten us with answers:
    1) If all walls facing a street/exterior wall are municipal property, why is it the property owners’ responsibility to repair and maintain those walls?
    2) If the wall the 7 gentlemen painted on was a municipal wall, why were they not informed previously? And why did the municipality not “buff”/ clean that wall with the usual dull grey cement/paint they use on bridges?
    3) A lot of schools/preschool/business’ have art work painted on their walls (street facing and exterior), why do those walls not fall under municipal property and why have the owners not been reprimanded or asked to remove the artwork?
    4) Why were the taxpayers and community not informed about the private investigators being hired to investigate the name change issue and the graffiti artists?
    -After all it is the community and taxpayers money, and they should have a voice which shouldn’t fall on deaf ears (such as the outrage regarding the road name changes, which many feel abolished a lot of historical events/influences etc)
    Would the tax payer’s money and the private investigators time, not be better spent chasing and catching the real criminals of Durban?

    FREE 031 SEVEN!

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  16. bones says:

    Street art is the only thing making some of our city streets worth walking down. The more grimy grey walls that are converted into art the better!

    Fucking pigs…

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  17. to kirsty and peeps in th dark says:

    @Kirsty do you personally know the artists who were arrested? do you know hhow badly they have vandalised durban? because they have girl. that’s what they’ll be held in trial for. not their art. yes, not all artists are vandals and not all vandals are artists. but if an artist does partake in illegal vandalism, should he be let off because he is an artist as well? i’m a singer and if i do something illegal, while my art would still be appreciated, i wouldn’t be given a blind eye to my crimes. one does not negate the other. this group of men as artistic as they are have wasted tax payers moneys indeed. and those are the actions they are going to be held responsible for. and the sad thing is that because ewok etc have vouched for their artistic integrity- when the opposite is proven in a court of law because they have long standing hard evidence on file of their vandalism sprees, then the public will truly question the honesty of hip hop heads the talented legal-wall-only writers. and they will all be lumped into the same category of unwanted vandals. and that sucks. so furthermore, one could say ther are artists who don’t commit illegal crimes and those that do. but just because they were picked up while doing something legal doesn’t mean their criminal history won’t influence their current situation. very sad circumstance. hope they wake up and stick with blazing that talent. big up mahala for the young city pulse. later x

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  18. futureherenow says:

    The criminilisation of street artist is simply an attempt by conservative, propertied society to impose its values on everyone else.
    Taggers deserve to have their butts kicked, end of story. But legit street art, graffiti, call it what you will, should be encouraged. We have plenty of dreary, depressing, run down, sif parts of our cities – whichever one is home – to improve. Putting some colour and interpretations of art on these walls is not and can never be a danger or damage to anyone. Living in these depressed ghettoes, with push-me-spirit-down vibes is the crime.
    Legitimise street art, dont criminalise it.
    And sure, not all will love it; after all art is by its nature divisive but you aint gonna get a sistine chapel on a wall near you……..actually coming to think of it…….

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  19. Anonymous says:

    ‘free the 031 seven’ is one of the most painful and terrible terms i’ve heard in a long time.
    Additionally, as some who spent time within the scene as well: Not one of those artists can deny knowingly breaing the law at some point in their ‘career’.
    No one debates that graff is art. But art doesn’t get special treatment, once defined, that lets you act selfish and destructively enough to justify your ‘expression’ at the expense of someone else. Its lazy. You do it for convenience. For ego. Not for art.
    No one is out putting poetry all over your mothers front lawn or whatever, and no one would have any expectation that they should. Because poetry is ‘art’.
    I smoke pot. Smoking pot introduces into my life the risk of arrest. Despite this, I choose to still smoke. Should I ever get caught, i only have myself to blame, because although i dont agree that it should be illegal, i make the choice to do it knowing the risks involved.
    Additionaly, those using banksy as an example of ‘high art’ – he’s an idiot. His messages in his work are shallow, have no depth and rely on first impressions. One of the few things that gives his work any weight at all, is the risk element, his flirtation with law becomes a part of his (empty) medium. Basic face value first impressions with no depth. Take them out of context and the yare nothing, and their context is the legality and law and risk involved (prior to becoming fashionable trend).
    So these guys happened to get caught on a day where they thought they were safe. It wasn’t their actions on the day that got them arrested, it was just where they happened to be caught.
    If they wont assume any responsibility for their actions, if they will insist on their innocence, then their medium and expression is empty. Then they can go fuck themselves. When they deface someone elses property, and that person wakes up in the morning and has to deal with the consequences of some graff artists selfish actions under the guise of ‘art’ (like art ever got anyone a get out of jail free card) – then that person who washes the chrome off their wall has more integrity than any artist who wont assume the responsibility of their art.
    They’re your babies. Now that they’ve shat their diapers, you cant disown them without looking like pretty crap mothers. You dumb fucks, the risk of the law is one of the very few things that gives your medium and subculture any credit above any other artist medium.
    Claiming ignorance or innocence now renders every dribble of paint from your can worthless.

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  20. to everyone in th dark says:

    And the winner is:

    the cat that just posted the previous comment. you hit the nail on the motherfucking head yo.

    well done. wish i was articulate enough to write that.

    yeah, where their mothers at? tis a damn shame.

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  21. Kirsty says:

    @ “Kirsty and peeps in the dark”
    actually, i know all of the boys who were arrested. and those who have caused damage in the past have been caught and tried for their wrong doings previously.
    if its researched properly, one of the artists took the fall for every count of graffiti in Durban- because it was assumed that a hand writing expert could decipher tags. this hand writing expert put forward that all counts of graffiti were a single mans doing. (literally impossible!)
    this man, paid the price for all vandals.
    as far as i know, unless the charges are dropped against that individual, no one else can be charged for those counts of vandalism, nor can he be charged again for those counts and with that evidence. double jeopardy and entrapment are illegitamate in south africa.
    since then those who were caught years before the big court case, have cleaned up their act and paint legit walls and murals.
    one crew in particular is known purely for the murals they paint legally and for companies and individuals alike. they have not painted a tag ever in their graffiti art career. they are serious artist who paint as a form of income.
    my standing on this matter is not to condone vandals nor vandalism… but to bring awareness about… these men were not caught doing vandalism. if they were, i would probably be on the same side of the fence as you, but they weren’t…

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  22. Anonymous says:

    if you dont want to be considered a criminal, then dont break the law.
    It’s not like your art can only be expressed on someone elses property, you’re not limited. Get a canvas, paint your fucking garage door. it’s a fucking choice. One with consequences. But ultimately, only one that YOU choose to make.

    And the argument that we ‘assumed the wall was legal’ is pretty empty. It wasn’t. You were wrong. Whoops. Your fuck up, not the city’s, not the newspapers, not anyone elses.

    Additionally, since apparently all the fumes from your cans have left the majority of you brain dead: When a journalist is accused of not doing his job, and being sensationalist, and not getting the facts from the source, and then pro actively tries to make contact to get this info, offers the opportunity for those to contact him with their stories, gets a response of ‘go fuck yourself, you idiot’ – then the implication of banality and stupidity lies at the feet of those making the accusations.
    If his journalism is biased and unfounded, then your position is even weaker.
    The very best response here has been from the graff artists to pit themselves against a journalist, and cal into question his integrity, motivations and more. Well, the responsibility lies with you, on how the media receives you, not the journalists themselves. They are not your fucking PR agents. I’m sorry, but you’re not opening a charity here, you’re consciously breaking the law, and that includes some personal responsibility. But if you all want to assign that to a journalist, you’re just giving him more power, so well done.

    Objectively, you guys broke the fucking law. Objectively, you are vandals. However, if you wanted a more biased article I suppose he could make friends with you and say, ‘they’re not not bad guys! they’re not being malicious when they break laws, they’re being creative artists’.

    That would not be objective journalism.
    And if you guys aren’t the graffitti gangs, then WHO ARE? Fuck the expected double standards you all assume cause you’re doing something that seems to have some air of romantic fuck you associated with it. Wake up.

    It is your own actions that make gradff an element of public interest, whether positive or negative. Then to sit there and tell journalist to write about other subjects, or cops to investigate other crimes, while trying to gain attention for your own actions is so contradictory it renders your argument mute.

    You are all fucking idiots.

    Graffitti doesn’t make you entitled, you jerks.

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  23. anon says:

    some people emailed the journalist and he never replied….
    and if you read most of the above responses… the artists totally agree that vandalism is not art…

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  24. Anonymous says:

    I dont think you graff artists are appreciating how much damage you are doing for your own art by responding like this.
    You call for objectivity but express noe.n As far as the objective debate goes: these guys, whether informed or misinformed or operating under an assumption for whatever good motivations they feel they had, got caught breaking the law. Objectivity, that’s vandalism.

    To gain any kind of name in this scene, you have to seen. To be seen, to earn that respect, you have to break the law. Getting your piece seen comes with respect in the graff scenes. Tagging somewhere dangerous, risky, noticeable: none of you can deny this is an active and conscious element of your culture. Having someone say, ‘there is this one crew that only does legal pieces, and prides themselves on it’ is not justification for those who dont. The cops have no responsibility to categorize the guys breaking the law, when faced with people blatantly doing it. They dont need to consult their charts they’ve drawn up and decide, ‘woah, hold up, these guys are the nice ones!’

    You’re selling bias and demanding objectivity.

    Additionally: you’re robbing your own scene of merit and worth. You’re diluting your own medium. If there was no risk, no consequences, then they are just doodles on a wall. By by demanding the innocence of those who get caught doing it, you render the whole message weak. You make your art as safe and boring as the next one, and you deny yourself the respect of the risk. The impact. It becomes dulled, it becomes easy, you message becomes impotent. As important and aesthetic as a billboard.

    If that idiot banksy operated under no threat of consequence, if he didn’t shroud himself in mystery and annonymity, then he’d be no one doing nothing, none of you would care.

    These guys are your current martyrs. Appreciate them for that, dont render every piece of art worthless and mute by insisting they are innocent.

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  25. Anonymous says:


    The wide blue nowhere of cyberspace is a wonderful thing – more on Paul Kirk


    “A case in point is the matter between Independent Newspapers operations manager Noel Seymour and journalist Paul Kirk where Kirk was ordered to pay Seymour’s legal costs in addition to R60 000 damages following a week-long civil trial in which it was found that Kirk had conducted “cowardly acts of terror against him and his family”. A punitive costs order reported to be in excess of R200 000 was also made against Kirk….”

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  26. Anonymous says:

    theres a reason you guys are using a can and not a paintbrush. A reason why you’re on the streets and not in your bedroom. Dont forget that.

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  27. Anonymous says:

    Hey guys, I am sure you think the real issue here is one story some guy wrote, but it really isn’t. If you think all this is hinging on how one journalist reported the actions of others, then you make the actions of those irrelevant, and the response of the journalist more important then the art of those caught.

    so, keep it up, i suppose. it’s the best defense you got.

    I’m sure the guys sitting in jail care more about their case then they do about some article some guy wrote that didn’t praise them as altruistic giving artists without any ulterior motives that aren’t completely pure and beautiful.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    ain’t that the TRUTH

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  29. Kirsty says:

    (http://mp3twit.com/h2U )
    local musician speaks out about 031 seven

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  30. Anon says:

    In the 1980’s New York had a crime rate such as us, this is how they (in 5 years) reduced it by half…..

    ‘The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference’ by Malcolm Gladwell;

    In the mid-1980s Kelling was hired by the New York Transit Authority as a consultant, and he urged them to put the Broken Windows theory into practice. They obliged, bringing in a new subway director by the name of David Gunn to oversee a multibillion-dollar rebuilding of the subway system. Many subway advocates, at the time, told Gunn not to worry about graffiti, to focus on the larger questions of crime and subway reliability, and it seemed like reasonable advice. Worrying about graffiti at a time when the entire system was close to collapse seems as pointless as scrubbing the decks of the Titanic as it headed toward the icebergs. But Gunn insisted. “The graffiti was symbolic of the collapse of the system,” he says. “When you looked at the process of rebuilding the organization and morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti. Without winning that battle, all the management reforms and physical changes just weren’t going to happen. We were about to put out new trains that were worth about ten million bucks apiece, and unless we did something to protect them, we knew just what would happen. They, would last one day and then they would be vandalized.”
    Gunn drew up a new management structure and a precise set of goals and timetables aimed at cleaning the system line by line, train by train. He started with the number seven train that connects Queens to midtown Manhattan, and began experimenting with new techniques to clean off the paint. On stainless-steel cars, solvents were used. On the painted cars, the graffiti were simply painted over. Gunn made it a rule that there should be no retreat, that once a car was “reclaimed” it should never be allowed to be vandalized again. “We were religious about it,” Gunn said. At the end of the number one line in the Bronx, where the trains stop before turning around and going back to Manhattan, Gunn set up a cleaning station. If a car came in with graffiti, the graffiti had to be removed during the changeover, or the car was removed from service. “Dirty” cars, which hadn’t yet been cleansed of graffiti, were never to be mixed with “clean” cars. The idea was to send an unambiguous message to the vandals themselves.
    “We had a yard up in Harlem on one hundred thirty-fifth Street where the trains would lay up over night,” Gunn said. “The kids would come the first night and palm the side of the train white. Then they would come the next night, after it was dry, and draw the outline. Then they would come the third night and color it in. It was a three-day job. We knew the kids would be working on one of the dirty trains, and what we would do is wait for them to finish their mural. Then we’d walk over with rollers and paint it over. The kids would be in tears, but we’d just be going up and down, up and down. It was a message to them. If you want to spend three nights of your time vandalizing a train, fine. But it’s never going to see the light of day.”
    Gunn’s graffiti cleanup took from 1984 to 1990. At that point, the Transit Authority hired William Bratton to head the transit police, and the second stage of the reclamation of the subway system began. Bratton was, like Gunn, a disciple of Broken Windows. He describes Kelling, in fact, as his intellectual mentor, and so his first step as police chief was as seemingly quixotic as Gunn’s. With felonies — serious crimes — on the subway system at an all-time high, Bratton decided to crack down on farebeating. Why? Because he believed that, like graffiti, farebeating could be a signal, a small expression of disorder that invited much more serious crimes. An estimated 170,000 people a day were entering the system, by one route or another, without paying a token. Some were kids, who simply jumped over the turnstiles. Others would lean backward on the turnstiles and force their way through. And once one or two or three people began cheating the system, other people —who might never otherwise have considered evading the law — would join in, reasoning that if some people weren’t going to pay, they shouldn’t either, and the problem would snowball. The problem was exacerbated by the fact fare-beating was not easy to fight. Because there was only $1.25 at stake, the transit police didn’t feel it was worth their time to pursue it, particularly when there were plenty of more serious crimes happening down on the platform and in the trains.
    Bratton is a colorful, charismatic man, a born leader, and he quickly made his presence felt. His wife stayed behind in Boston, so he was free to work long hours, and he would roam the city on the subway at night, getting a sense of what the problems were and how best to fight them. First, he picked stations where fare-beating was the biggest problem, and put as many as ten policemen in plainclothes at the turnstiles. The team would nab fare-beaters one by one, handcuff them, and leave them standing, in a daisy chain, on the platform until they had a “full catch.” The idea was to signal, as publicly as possible, that the transit police were now serious about cracking down on fare-beaters. Previously, police officers had been wary of pursuing fare-beaters because the arrest, the trip to the station house, the filling out of necessary forms, and the waiting for those forms to be processed took an entire day — all for a crime that usually merited no more than a slap on the wrist. Bratton retrofitted a city bus and turned it into a rolling station house, with its own fax machines, phones, holding pen, and fingerprinting facilities. Soon the turnaround time on an arrest was down to an hour. Bratton also insisted that a check be run on all those arrested. Sure enough, one out of seven arrestees had an outstanding warrant for a previous crime, and one out of twenty was carrying a weapon of some sort. Suddenly it wasn’t hard to convince police officers that tackling fare-beating made sense. “for the cops it was a bonanza,” Bratton writes. “Every arrest was like opening a box of Cracker Jack. What kind of toy am I going to get? Got a gun? Got a knife? Got a warrant? Do we have a murderer here? . ..
    After a while the bad guys wised up and began to leave their weapons home and pay their fares.” Under Bratton, the number of ejections from subway stations — for drunkenness, or improper behavior — tripled within his first few months in office. Arrests for misdemeanors, for the kind of minor offenses that had gone unnoticed in the past, went up fivefold between 1990 and 1994. Bratton turned the transit police into an organization focused on the smallest infractions, on the details of life underground.
    After the election of Rudolph Giuliani as mayor of New York in 1994, Bratton was appointed head of the New York City Police Department, and he applied the same strategies to the city at large. He instructed his officers to crack down on quality-of-life crimes: on the “squeegee men” who came up to drivers at New York City intersections and demanded money for washing car windows, for example, and on all the other above-ground equivalents of turnstile-jumping and graffiti. “Previous police administration had been handcuffed by restrictions,” Bratton says. “We took the handcuffs off. We stepped up enforcement of the laws against public drunkenness and public urination and arrested repeat violators, including those who threw empty bottles on the street or were involved in even relatively minor damage to property…. If you peed in the street, you were going to jail.” When crime began to fall in the city — as quickly and dramatically as it had in the subways — Bratton and Giuliani pointed to the same cause. Minor, seemingly insignificant quality-of-life crimes, they said, were Tipping Points for violent crime.
    The Tipping Point in this epidemic, though, isn’t a particular kind of person. It’s something physical like graffiti. The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment.

    – From, ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

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  31. Derek Smith says:

    @ Anon – 3.23 The “Broken Window Theory” was debunked extensively in Freakanomics – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner: Read it and let’s talk again

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  32. Derek Smith says:

    @Anon – 3.23 – Jeez, why do you guys post anonymous? Makes no sense to participate in what’s turning out as an important and very interesting discussion and then choose to remain anonymous. Put a name to what you’re writing. No-one will come gangstarise you, I’m sure

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  33. Anon says:

    Isn’t wikipedia a wonderful thing;

    Kees Keizer and colleagues from the University of Groningen conducted a series of controlled experiments to determine if the effect of existing disorder (such as litter or graffiti) increased the incidence of additional crime like stealing, littering or conducting other acts of antisocial behavior. They selected several urban locations which they then arranged in two different ways, at different times. In one condition—the control—the place was maintained orderly. It was kept free from graffiti, broken windows, etc. In the other condition—the experiment—exactly the same environment was arranged in a way where it looked like nobody monitored it and cared about it: windows were broken, graffiti were placed on the walls, among other things. The researchers then secretly monitored the locations to observe if people behaved differently when the environment was disordered. The results confirmed the theory. Their conclusion, published in the journal Science, was that:

    One example of disorder, like graffiti or littering, can indeed encourage another, like stealing.

    Many consider the experiment the best confirmation of the broken windows theory to date.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    I have a fundamental belief about staying anon on here. It means my opinions are handled as opinions, and not assigned whatever people associate with a person instead. I get no recognition for it on a personal level, meaning i can express a more honest opinion without trying to look cool to my peers or whatever, or single myself out. I’ll always stay anonymous. The only time it annoys me is when someone else accuses someone else of being the anonymous which i think they thought was me.

    it really gives more weight to my opinion, although the common belief round these parts is that it does the opposite, but whatever chumps.

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  35. Derek Smith says:

    @anon 3:36 “Many consider the experiment the best confirmation of the broken windows theory to date” Who are the many? That’s way too much of a sweeping statement by your wiki source

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  36. Derek Smith says:

    @Anon 3:46 “I’ll always stay anonymous. The only time it annoys me is when someone else accuses someone else of being the anonymous which i think they thought was me.”

    Don’t understand this sentence and how can remaining anonymous give more weight to your opinion?

    Don’t understand that either but maybe I am a chump…………

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  37. Anon says:

    Derek it would be silly to discount the theory. Your argument would be the same one used by people who get tattoos and then argue that they can’t find a decent, well-paying job. Fact is that what one person calls art another finds offensive or destructive. Graffiti does not “in my eye” uplift an area, it merely points out a place I will not enter for fear of being mugged. If you want to uplift an area or a wall that is looking tatty, be my guest… paint is white

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  38. Anonymous says:

    why should my opinion be limited or linked to who i am, or what i have done, or my social standing, or whatever the hell else.
    it’s just a comment board, all it should be is a comment, to be read without any other influence.

    Everyone does it, bases opinions off what they think of the person. That annoys me.

    These are throw away comments anyway, I dont need them to live on and prosper in my name.

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  39. Derek Smith says:

    @ Anon 3:55 “Graffiti does not “in my eye” uplift an area, it merely points out a place I will not enter for fear of being mugged” ….and herein lies the rub – Fear of something one does not understand

    Come walk with me through the streets of Jozi or Woodstock in CT where I go solo with some very expensive camera equipment on many occasions. I’ll show you what graffiti as “Art as Healing” means in a non-confrontational way then you can maybe make a more informed decision – http://www.flickr.com/photos/43066879@N06/sets/72157623033420051/
    about the value of streetart in a scarred and broken society.

    Please also Google /A Word on Art and/or One Street Herald who will show you the positive role street art can play.

    Last time I looked about half of the white middle class hipsters in Jozi hanging out at Main Street Life or Melrose Arch had tats and they didn’t look unemployed to me.

    And how come is it silly to discount the “Broken Window Theory” if it had been proved to be fundamentally flawed?

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  40. Anonymous says:

    Pretty sure Mahala did an article where they went into Woodstock during one of those community upliftment through graffitti things,and some dude had his camera stolen.

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  41. Anonymous says:

    And, also: you’re dismissing the broken window theory while trying to reverse it and make it apply to street art.

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  42. Anon says:

    First of all, I can’t not speak for CT or JHB, I am from Durban. I will not talk about something I know nothing about. I am yet to see graffiti in any areas in Durban that are considered safe. I don’t think La Lucia mall has plans to put graffiti on their wall to uplift the look of the building (or gateway for that matter). I have however see that some hard working law abiding citizens garden walls have been defaced, for which they have to use their hard working money to get repainted. I have seen a CBD fall to rot with graffiti plastered all over the place.

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  43. Anon says:

    And how come is it silly to discount the “Broken Window Theory” if it had been proved to be fundamentally flawed?

    For every doctor or criminologist or in your case, author, you can provide to debunk the theory I can provide the same to prove it. It would be tireless and pointless to go round in circles with you.

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  44. Derek Smith says:

    @ Anon 4:22 – It was the rig of Rowan Pybus, a very well know graf photographer – he got it back and it will serve you well to have a look at this viimeo he made about the work of faith47 which is a very powerful comment on South African Society –

    Obviously we are sitting on different sides of the fence and that is what humanity is all about. What really got to me about this sad and sorry saga is the irresponsible reporting about the incident in Durbs – what resulted was a huge amount of emotional mud-slinging and hurt with street artists getting very bad press. Street Artists or Graffiti artists knows the score – in other words when they vandalize or deface they will be arrested. The ones I know has gone way past that stage as the will not waste their time on tagging or vandalizing. They paint with permission in spaces that where they can work without being harassed by the authorities. The real problem is not the high profile recognized street artists but indiscriminate taggers and they will scribble and paint as they wish. The best way to solve this will be not to drive graffiti artists underground but work WITH them tapping into a huge pool of creative talent that can be used in a positive way.

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  45. Anon says:

    Derek, I can’t help but ask, where does it end? We work with Graffiti artests, give them a canvas, that will stop them from defacing peoples wall…. then what, we work with prostitutes to make it legal, that will stop them on the streets, we work with drope smokers, make it legal, heroin? Where will the line in the sand be drawn and who decides where that line is?

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  46. Derek Smith says:

    Anon @ 4:55 Where does it end? To that I haven’t got the answer. I wish I had. Somewhere I read that prostitution is the oldest profession in the world and I also know that man has left his art or scribbles on walls for millions of years. That’s the way it is. Laws or no laws wont stop that. What I do believe though is that its better to work with and try to understand what makes people do what they do than summarily dismiss it as inappropriate because we don’t like it. I had a discussion the other day with someone about the work of Damien Hirst, who is presently the highest paid living artist – he’s the one who stuck a Shark or a sheep into a tank of Formaldehyde and sold it for millions. Art or Not Art? For me it ain’t.Let’s agree to disagree and move on.

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  47. Anon says:

    Derek, Let me explain. I’m not sure what your circumstances are but here are mine (and I suspect, many others)

    I am tired, I am married, two dog, two kids, full time job. I have school runs, dinners, dog poop, and teenage tears to deal with. I am made to feel like crap because I am white on a daily basis in the press and my tax is never enough, I have to pay PAYE, VAT, now NHI and white tax to worry about. I live in one of the most crime ridden countries in the world and I live behind a huge wall with a security company on panic button standby.

    I have little or no patients for heart wrenching, arty farty, peace and love nonsense. First off, I will slap some pip squeek who defaced my garden wall (and a moms slap is hard) Second of all these are good, well brought up kids with tremendous talent. Who have thrown it away to paint a wall, literally, paint a wall!!! So their poor, long suffering mother, who is probably a copy of me, gets to say that their kid is in jail and all that hard work and sacrifice when they were growing up has nothing but a criminal record which will follow them around for the rest of their lives, job interviews, visa, everywhere.

    So never mind the fact that graffiti may not be this old farts cup of tea, they were bloody stupid and NO they don’t get to stand up and say “sorry, I thought…”

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  48. Anon says:

    Ok Derek, have to go home now anyway and make dinner 🙂

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  49. Luke says:

    here’s a debunk to your broken window theory you fucking annoying twat;


    ps. you probably won’t read it.

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  50. Luke says:

    actually anon. i hope you don’t read that. judging from your bio it may shake your small world a little too much.

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  51. Anon says:

    Luke do you kiss your mother with that mouth? I hate to break it to you but Derek already raised the freakanomics argument. Now go wad your mouth out with some soap. There’s a good boy

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  52. Derek Smith says:

    As far as I am concerned this matter, and constructive dialogue about

    – The incorrect and sensationalist reporting to Mr Paul Kirk and also his childish response to some comments (PS Fuck you from a senior reporter of the Citizen)???
    – The arrest and possible conviction of the Durban guys

    will not be positively move forward with name calling and mud-slinging.

    The fact of the matter is that there are a large sector of the community that does not see any value or merit in street art or graffiti. One needs to accept that and move on.

    As far as I am concerned is that the arrests were unnecessary and Paul Kirk blew it out of all proportion in the way he reported it. (I see he’s gone silent and has not answered the questions posed in earlier comment) Nothing can change the past.

    I cringe when I watch TV news as see strikers trashing the streets of Durban with no police intervention yet they’re able to arrest a couple of painters on a Sunday morning but that’s also a story for another day.

    I have in this year engaged with Joburg Photowalkers in Jozi and took them on three photowalks through the city showing them some of the best street art pieces. In that way a number of peoples view and perception were changed positively about the medium. That’s the way to go – constructive engagement.

    We also know the score about illegal tagging and the possible consequence if you are caught. Its ugly and illegal….and it is that facet of graffiti that causes the most distress for people in my opinion and in the light of this one needs to accept the bad press, correctly or incorrectly, the graf community gets.

    I also know that street art is gaining momentum in a big way in South Africa and this gladdens my heart. Its colourful, its makes social statements and it is art as healing – but again to spread this as a catalyst of change in a fractured society will take a long time.

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  53. Comment #153 says:

    Here’s comment #153

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  54. Another Dude. says:

    I appreciate good street art as much as the next guy.
    But, like drugs, there are some people that are just letting the whole side down.
    I see the guys painting an amazing piece on a legal graffiti wall the same as somebody going into the middle of nowhere to smoke a joint and watch a sunset with a few friends. It’s beautiful and doesn’t harm anybody. But you get all the idiots “tagging” their little alias’s all over every electricity box and street corner it just ruins it for everybody else. It’s like the dude that gets high on crack and starts shooting at cops. Its just a bloody mess.

    So until people stop ruining it for the guys that are trying to keep it good there will always be arrests and trouble and backlash.

    The only graffiti i’d like to see around is more work from the guys at dutch ink. they are not adding to the problem but trying to clean our environment. Not sure where they fall into my drugs analogy but i do appreciate their work every time i drive over the Umgeni bridges.

    Now just to lay out a few points. I smoked a bit of weed in high school, but have never taken any other drugs. I have never sprayed anything on a wall. but have photographed a few good pieces.

    Maybe they should stick to spraying onto big canvasses, at least it’ll be easier to sell…

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  55. Rose says:

    Spray painting someone elses property is malicious damage to property – the question of whether it looks nice or not is irrelevant. They thought they got permission which is understandable. The issue is that the police arrested them cos the saps were aware about the change of ownership of the wall. So that’s understandable too. They can’t reckon it looks nice so let’s not arrest them. And if you’ve read the paper over the years you’ll see public comments bitching and moaning about malicious spray painters, so its also understandable why they arrested them. That’s the only bit I condone.
    Given the circumstances its very easy to understand why they were arrested. I don’t know what has transpired since – but I’m sure if they’re brought before the court and it’s explained that they had been given permission in the past by the walls owner etc etc, then they will not be convicted of anything. Unfortunately once they’ve been charged it’s not up to the police’s discretion to decide whether they should drop the charge – I’m sure every single spray painter claims ‘the owner gave them permission’, the facts have to be presented in court and decided from there. It’s the system

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  56. 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?


    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.


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  57. Anonymous says:

    A word from your friendly neighbourhood graffiti artist.

    It amazes me how the average mind quickly jumps at debunking and smearing the world of the alternative. Even more so suprising, to something as arcane and innocent as graffiti. Most of the unfavoured tales on this page resonate from minds that posses a relatively futile knowing of graffiti and its plethora of offerings.

    From the aesthetics of a flare on a TAPZ tag to the precision of a perfectly executed PLASTIC throw up. From many the odyssesys in the night time, tagging your alias, validating your existence in this dead life, to the acknowledgement of peers in the form of respect and admiration, to the life-long trust instilled in friendships, the contrasting cultural, social backrounds it unified. From snot-nosed toys, fat caps, skinny caps, panels, learning the infamous yards, grudges, beef, to Montana, paint stains, plaguing headaches, blackbooks, the jubilation shared at the local writers bench, getting buffed to GOGGA, TVA, 2KIL, TOE. 2INK, MYZA, OTC……….just to name a few aspects.

    I instead scorn the abundant, manipulative billboards which emphasize our human insecurities, empty our pockets and forcefully invade our public space-nationn wide. I adorn the human hands that instead, utilise the public platform, tell our their own stories, display their own minds-legal or not…….


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  58. Tony O'Reilly says:

    For shits, thanks for the heads-up ghettosmurf. I knew Independent Newspapers was foreign owned, but I didn’t know that our own establishment media is owned by a Bilderberg attendee. I checked up on it – at the least he sat in on Bilderberg in 1983. Check out: publicintelligence dot net slash 1983-bilderberg-meeting-participant-list. Search for Anthony J.F. there’s a character error for his name. Fuckers.

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  59. ghettosmurf says:

    Ja for real Tony, EVERY single mainstream media outlet is in some way or another linked to the Bilderberg group through its board members, CEO’s or majority stock owners, from Africa to Alaska it’s all the same.

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  60. doker irie says:

    one love ,,,fuck the hate….

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