Joana Duque is an occasional Women’s Post contributor and freelance writer.
Have you ever taken a good look at the streets of Toronto and wondered what it would look like without graffiti? Without what is better known as a true representation of our culture and our community? Most Torontonians see street art, otherwise known as graffiti, as a destruction of our streets and our city, whereas it should really be seen as a true form of representation of the people that embody Toronto and make it what it is today.
Recently, a proposal by Beaches-East York Ward 32 Councilor Sandra Bussin was made in regards to cracking down on graffiti within the city that would prohibit retailers from selling markers and spray paint to minors – a proposal that Toronto mayoral candidate Giorgio Mammoliti seems to agree with. When it became alright to categorize spray paint under the same regulations as beer and cigarettes is beyond me. But if this is the stance which both Bussin and Mammoliti seem to be taking in order to crack down on graffiti, then maybe we have a bigger issue here.
Granted, the problem with graffiti is that it is vandalism, but there are so many different incarnations of it out there that to classify all graffiti as an overall offense to have splashed on our meant-to-be-perfectly-untouched-brick-walls is to imply that politicians know art better than artists do. The history of graffiti is a long and respectable one. Graffiti first began primarily around the 1960s by political activists to make statements and gangs to mark territory – something that is still going on to this day. It could even be argued that graffiti dates back all the way to Egyptian times. But the truth of the matter is that passing a law that would render minors unable to purchase spray paints from retailers is unrealistic.
Take Bansky for example, a British street artist with an international reputation for his black-and-white paintings hidden away in downtown back alleys. Or Funktion Gallery, who, according to their facebook page, are “a collective of Toronto-based artists that host art shows, live music, live painting and poetry readings.” These are the kind of street artists that embody what graffiti is truly about and who respectfully use graffiti as a proper art form, yet their work ends up being discredited by those who use graffiti as a means to pass on a hateful message or cause rifts amongst each other and so forth. It is within this dichotomy that the system becomes flawed.
If anything, it is the gangs that pose the problem. And so what city councilors like Bussin and Toronto mayoral hopefuls like Mammoliti should be focusing on is setting up programs that could render obsolete the problem of negative graffiti in the form of vandalism, and perhaps teach minors a better understanding of how to use graffiti to make a difference within the community. There have been multiple projects within the city of Toronto where graffiti was used as a means to raise awareness for an important cause or even to raise funds for charities that needed it.
All I know is that there is no beauty in something as plain as a white brick wall and there is definitely no easy fix to the problem of vandalism within our city through a mere proposal of banning minors from purchasing spray paints from retailers. What it comes down to is knowing that city councilors such as Bussin view the passing of a law to ban the present issue from reoccurring as the cheaper and easier alternative to setting up potential housing programs for minors that would aid in not only fostering their growth but also teaching them the negative effects of their actions.