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Graffiti - Art or Social Problem

by Anita Skorodjonoka and Sandra Nore from Latvia.

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”

 Rabindranath Tagore


What’s  in this issue?

·         What is graffiti?

·         Is it art or hooliganism?

·         Or is it simply scribbling, scratching and spraying on empty, ugly defaced walls?

·         What is your opinion?

·         Do we need to accept graffiti or throw it away like rubbish?

·         Do we need to teach it at schools or it is really bad taste?

·         Does graffiti have any future?

These are questions we offer students and teachers to look at by visiting the graffiti picture gallery, listening to the interviews, reading people's opinions about graffiti, provoking ideas for the discussion and the role play with notes for teachers.

It is sure that you can’t find a correct answer to these questions because we have different points of view. So students and teachers have a challenge to explore the unknown world of graffiti! Through questions, discussions, practice and experience we can formulate and express our opinion to such a provocative cultural issue as graffiti and decide if graffiti is art or hooliganism…


Anita Skorodjonoka, a teacher from Latvia

Once a misbehaved teenager from the school I am working in addressed me by asking a surprising question, “Have a look at this boring ugly wall in the long narrow passage, could I make some colorful graffiti on it? It could look very beautiful then.” I must confess that I looked astonished at his great idea and tried to avoid any precise answer by explaining that it is not a fast job and that he should show his ideas on the paper first of all, because not every painting might be appropriate for this place. So the question is still open.

Furthermore, we are having project weeks once a school year, when students can develop their theoretical or practical skills by working on the topics they find interesting for them. From year to year it appears that during this week our learners are more eager on creating practical things than finding information on the Internet or in the library. Therefore this year the students had an opportunity to express themselves by painting on some walls at school but in the guidance of an art teacher.

In my opinion, if students have tried a taste of really beautiful wall-painting, they should not be tended to express their subconscious desires in an unattractive way and inappropriate place. The sooner at schools will be paid more attention to adolescents’ need of self-expression in an unusual way the better it will be for social and private places. Let us give a hand to our teenagers in adolescence to taste the forbidden fruit and to deal with their frustration, depression and aggressiveness.

As I found searching the web, in the USA the promotion activity   “Annual Graffiti Summit” has been done. www.

Sandra Nore, a teacher from Latvia

Graffiti is a current cultural and social phenomenon not only in Latvia but in the other European countries and of course all over the world. Obviously the first impression of graffiti is negative because of the rudeness and aggression we see expressed on horribly defaced walls and ruins. But there is graffiti published in well known expensive magazines, on the Internet and even exhibitions are organized displaying this art form. This is art that deserves recognition and approval.

Graffiti is a part of a new subculture trend called hip-hop. Moreover it is not only drawings, paintings, sprayings, but also design, different theatrical performances and artistic installations.

I have talked to the members of Hornby Summer school 2004 about graffiti as art and hooliganism and received different opinions. It is really impossible to say what is good or bad, what is black or white. It depends on the situation and the people involved in the creation of graffiti. I have come to the conclusion that this still shocking cultural phenomenon has recently received the seal of approval from many heads of the state. A visit of hip-hop  dancers in the Vatican and Latvian President’s invitation extended to a well-known Latvian hip-hop singer will definitely help the promotion, understanding and acceptance of this sub-cultural trend which many of us have not decided how to cope with and what to do with it.

So I decided to take up the theme about graffiti because I think it is really current for teenagers at school. It is a good challenge for both – teachers and students to talk, to persuade  each other using the English language in harsh or friendly discussions and debates. I like challenges and I am sure that my students like as well. I remember one of my students who didn’t like English at all and was not successful at it, but when we started speaking about his hobby he could talk about it non-stop even in English. His language improved step by step after each harsh discussion if graffiti is needed in Riga. Unfortunately, he couldn’t escape mentioning graffiti in all writing tasks.

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