Their discussion of graffiti got me thinking. One of the things I am always interested in is the continuity of human behaviour throughout the ages. Ancient Romans loved graffiti, and so do their modern counterparts.
I was in Naples the week before last, visiting sites connected with the Roman poet Virgil. As a classical archaeologist and historian, I knew should be taking photos of columns and amphitheatres but my camera kept snapping the amazing graffiti I saw everywhere. On the one hand I feel dismay, that the Italians should so mar their buildings. But on the other hand I admire much of it. I appreciate the beauty of shape, colour and form that David Almond and Sally Gardner were praising.
Some of the Neapolitan graffiti is pure image: no words of any kind. They can be funny, beautiful, startling. For example, a bollard animated into a face.
You find wholes buildings covered with graffiti.
Some of the messages are quotes, like this one (below) by movie director and poet Silvano Agosti: Don't put flowers in the window of a prisoner's cell [because if one day the door should open, he will not want to leave.]
Political slogans are popular, e.g. Tremonti & Napolitano are slaves of the middle-class.
And, just as in Roman times, sometimes graffiti expresses longings and passion. Each one suggests a story behind it, or a hundred stories!
|"What a beautiful life"|
|"The future is not written"|
You could do the same thing using graffiti in a city. So you might put together images such as a the ones above to make a poem like this:
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
THE FUTURE IS NOT WRITTEN
I LOVE YOU RAFFAEL
Next time you're a passenger in a car, on a train or simply walking, look around and take note of the beauty and poetry of graffiti. Oh, and watch out for the Punk Beasts, too!
Caroline Lawrence is author of The Roman Mysteries & The P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries. She is currently working on ways of retelling Virgil's Aeneid and visited The Land of the Sibyl with Andante Travels.
When we went to see the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum I had to explain Mary Beard's graffiti translation to my 8 year old.
Fabulous! This post is a joy, Caroline!
terrific post Caroline. There are some amazingly witty slogans on motorway bridges too
I went to Naples earlier this year, and I was quite shocked by the amount of graffiti on all the buildings--some really lovely old buildings scrawled all over with spray paint. Once I got over the initial surprise, I was able to appreciate it, but it was still crazily different to what I had expected.
It's so sad when they graffiti lovely buildings but with some of the uglier fascist architecture you don't mind!
When my sister recently was recently on holiday in Italy she sent us a photo of a graffiti which took her fancy - a rather charming smiley phallus. This made us wonder whether the old Roman belief in phalli as good luck symbols still existed or whether someone just got lucky :)
When I went to Bosnia we kept seeing the same piece of graffiti wherever we went in Sarajevo. Sure, we saw plenty to do with the war and with the current political climate, but the one we saw repeated the most was of an orange pussy cat with wings and a huge Cheshire grin - the Angelcat! It became a game to see if you could spot one next! We even saw one after a four hour trek to a remote waterfall, painted on a rock across from the lower part of the falls!
Annis and bookauhubooknook please send me pix of the phallus and winged cat. The former is most definitely continuity! flaviagemina [at] hotmail [dot] com
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