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Mount Holyoke College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Nicaragua: Revolution, Transformation, and Civil Society

Abstract

Semiotics, or the philosophical study of signs and symbols, makes us rethink the familiar and the things we take for granted. If someone walks to work everyday on the same street, after time he will probably stop thinking about the graffiti on the corner. Graffiti is probably something that most of us take for granted, or hardly see anymore, but I argue that its role in society must be rethought. What does graffiti on the wall represent? It is a manifestation of the ideas and beliefs of the artist, as well as a reflection of his artistic talent. When several walls in Managua are covered with such ideas and personal expressions, and are visible to the public, one begins to wonder why they are there, and what this means for the city. The ideas presented contribute to public discourse and in theory can lead to healthy debates between citizens regarding the thematic content. This process is democratic, first and foremost because graffiti represents the voice of the artist, a citizen. In Nicaragua, where the democratic government and its institutions are failing and the people are suffering the consequences, graffiti represents another form of expression for the young Nicaraguan artists. If they cannot express themselves with a vote, they have their art. In this essay, I explore the Nicaraguan graffiti movement from the past to the present. I examine the influence of gangs on graffiti, and also discuss the other negative stereotypes that exist. From my own experiences with the artists, I offer a profile of who the artists are today, how they are organized, and what they paint. With all of this research, I conclude that Nicaraguan graffiti is an artistic, democratic, and popular movement that is changing the urban landscape of Nicaragua and its democratic processes.

Disciplines

Art Practice | Sociology

 

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