One fateful Monday morning, I was sitting in a car on my way to the Mainland.
Bored and stuck in the world-famous horrible Lagos traffic, I couldn’t help but stare out of the window. Then I saw the inscription crudely scrawled on the wall ‘LIVE AND WORK IN CANADA…CALL SO AND SO NUMBER’ (all in caps and boldly written with a chalk).
Several questions kept running through my mind. I asked myself “are Nigerians now this desperate to leave the country? Is this ‘Advertising’ in every sense of the word or is this our own version of Graffiti? ”. For some reason, I did find it quite funny and interesting; hence I had to take a snap shot of the scene immediately, thanks to the camera app on my Samsung phone. I’ve had this phone for such a long time that, if it were human, it would have been Methuselah. (Laughs). But jokes apart, that picture actually inspired this article you’re reading now.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Graffiti is writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place. Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles.’
In the mega city, Lagos, where I grew up and still reside, writing on walls with chalks and charcoals is now very common, and it seems to be our own little version of Graffiti. However, 90% of these drawings and writings have now become a cheaper means of advertising various brands, products and services on the streets. I believe the idea is to pass any message or information across to the public as quickly as possible. Take for instance the inscription on the wall in the picture above.
One thing I could pull from memory was that I’ve seen several other types of drawings on walls, especially when I once visited my home town in the Eastern part of Nigeria. Unlike the ones in Lagos, these inscriptions pointed commentaries on Nigerian life and exuded self-expression. With a keen eye, I looked deeper at the drawings and I could see the story of my people starring me right in the face. “Apparently, the Ministry of Tourism have been sleeping on a gold mine.” I said to myself.
Does the Graffiti art-form really exist in Nigeria? Well my answer is ‘Yes’ if you ask me. We may use chalks and charcoals instead of the spray paints, but it all boils down to artistic expression, isn’t it? This culture shouldn’t be only familiar with the hip-hop community. Of course, it’s an important element in Hip-Hop. And I acknowledge organisations like WAPI in association with the British Council that have managed to create awareness about the art-form across Africa.
On a final note, whether Graffiti in Nigeria is a genre of artistic expression or an advertising platform, one thing I know is that, the art-form has always been here and will continue to be for a very long time. We just have to embrace it more with open arms.