This photograph captures the key of my thesis. This is from the centre of the city where I live. We see graffiti on the left and then a mural painted on one of our buildings in this case the education department of the government.
Over some time know I have sought to do a sociological study of contemporary society and the position the graffiti movement plays in it. Sociologists as we know study society and the role various groups have in that society including the power they have and how they display that power. One way some young people display themselves in society is by drawing on the walls. This, as any parent (or child psychologist) will attest, is quite a natural thing for a child to do.
As I have said before the graffiti movement has been remarkably resilient over an extended period of time. Other strong power groups in the society have tried to eradicate them, namely the press, the police and the politicians all have an interest in seeking to eradicate that group of young people who draw on the walls of our society. However the most notable thing about their eradication attempts is how remarkably unsuccessful they have been. Simply drive around the city and have a look. That means this group of young people is a powerful group in contemporary society even though some may not like to admit it.
When they first started they scared us, so we fought back as we usually do by using the police to maintain order and keep people under control and behaving properly. But this group of young people did not stop. We started to discover how powerful they were. Now they don’t scare us so much and we are starting to copy them. The mural in this photograph is now common place in our city. This one is typical. It is huge and a dramatic, powerful image. Most of this ‘legal’ graffiti is not serene, soothing images. Instead they are like this, a strong attention grabbing image. Dare I say it, the images display a youthful exuberance.
This young people power group, has fulfilled its sociological task. It has made its mark on the society, the rest of society is starting to adjust to it and incorporate it into its overall identity. Hence we copy them and start painting on the walls ourselves. Ironically this may in fact bring an end to the graffiti movement as they see we have now incorporated them into society and they become mainstream. The youthful desire to be new and innovative is lost by drawing on the walls because we now copy them and draw on the walls ourselves.