The Writing’s on the Wall

vincent van guaka.jpg
Vincent van Guaka: Guaka has a terrible fear of drawing due to pressure from his dad for him to make a better life for himself

I must say I’m partial to some graffiti, hidden in alleyways, brightening up the grey walls along train lines. They’re technically beautiful and a simple image can harbour some seriously dense meaning. But you have to know what to look for and where to find it.

Bright and eye-catching, if nothing else it is visually stunning.

Decertor is a street artist based in Lima. He burst onto the street art scene with his politically charged murals of deceased Lima gang members.

His work speaks to Peruvians through symbolism. Pre-columbian imagery, categorised as ‘traditional’ folk art, is the dark-skinned faces of natives, traditional garb (see last post) and the brightly coloured patterns of ceramics and textiles. He loudly proclaims social issues in Peru’s capital: identity, immigration, poverty and social inequality.

Mural in the city of El Tambu

His strong aesthetic and activist ideals have become familiar to locals and graffiti lovers alike. For a short period city officials encouraged street art production in street art festivals, until a change in power saw some famous graffiti murals ‘cleaned up’. Locals and artists were outraged at the loss.

As a tourist attraction, graffiti does work. Walking tours in Melbourne are prime examples, but sadly graffiti is not marketed and valued as an attraction to Peru.

Although it is definitely an attractive aspect of the cities. Even without the cultural and political background knowledge, tourists walk the streets and photograph the murals hidden in the city. It becomes an interaction – a story – that they create as they explore, just like inhabitants of the city experience them in their daily lives.

Street art reminds travellers to explore beyond the ‘must-sees’ in a city and think critically about what they find.