Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 11-08-2010

…is all the graffiti:

I was surprised to see this when I first came here, as Cotonou and Lomé had virtually no graffiti. I’m not really sure why this happens here; I think it’s mostly bored youngsters with a can of paint to hand. Most of their ‘tags’ sound like names of gangs or groups of some kind, almost always made up of a suitable adjective followed by ‘boys’ or ‘men’ or equivalent: ‘Master Boys’ ‘Strong Men’ ‘Boston Clan’ etc. Fascinating indeed, though I’d still rather the walls were clean!

In one village I visited recently, someone had written “9 Cent” on the wall of a mosque! Now that’s gotta be wrong (and they’re 41 cents short, it would seem!)

It’s quite different from European graffiti; certainly not as artistic, which is interesting in a country which has some great artists! But I’m not sure the perpetrators of this kind of visual pollution even see it as a bad thing. Just like an African road is a ‘shared space’ (rather than the domain of cars alone, pedestrians, donkeys, barrows and the like also wander freely amongst the vehicles) then maybe a blank wall is also seen as ‘common domain’ and that – in writing upon it – it’s actually improving its appearance? Looking on the bright side, one could argue that it helps literacy in a country with relatively low literacy rates!

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