Cyprus Political Graffiti

I’ve been in Nicosia, Cyprus for less than five days now, and I can’t help but notice the political graffiti scene. It’s colorful, intense, and everywhere. Nicosia, as the last remaining divided capital in the world, is no newcomer to the outcries and protest.

Nicosia is divided into Old and New cities. In the New city, graffiti tends to be more abstract and less politically divisive. Entering the Venetian walls of the Old city, however, graffiti gives way from flare to blatant political statements.

Since 1974 when Turkey invaded and conquered the northern half, the island of Cyprus has been a divided country, composed of the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the north. Cyprus has been a member of the EU since 2004, although neither the EU or UN recognize the Turkish Republic as an independent state. Turkey alone recognizes the Turkish Republic, while the rest of the world considers it an illegally occupied territory in violation of international law. Not only is the island divided, but the capital as well. Through the middle of Nicosia runs the “Green Line,” called the “Demarcation Line” by some, and this divides Turkish northern Nicosia from Cypriot southern Nicosia. Seven crossing points are guarded on each side by respective Greek and Turkish soldiers, while there exists a UN buffer zone in between, stretching as little as two meters at points and sometimes reaching up to six kilometers.

Southern Cypriots, almost entirely Greeks, view the division as the utmost offense and when speaking on the issue, are still very emotional and passionate. More than 200,000 Greek Cypriots were forced to flee their northern homes when Turkey invaded in the 1970’s and they still consider themselves refugees in southern Cyprus. Unable to return to their homes until 2002 when border crossings were first opened, they were shocked and traumatized to find their prior places of residence altered completely, demolished, and inhabited by Turkish families. Land that Greek Cypriots owned in the north was given freely to Turkish Cypriots and mainland Turks and to this day, no Greek Cypriot has received payment for their properties or been allowed to return home.

Given the situation, although not violent, it is only natural that a certain amount of vehemence and resentment course through the city, often showing itself in art form. Graffiti becomes particularly abundant in areas nearest the Green Line, where key spots render the most visibility for artists.

FAUX FREEDOM – On a wall on the Greek side near the Green Line in Nicosia, Cyprus, one artist perfectly expresses the feelings of many southern Cypriots.

Numerous corners and walls near the Green Line have quickly scrawled expressions such as “Fuck Turkey,” “Free Cyprus,” and “No Borders,” such as the sign below.

Calls for peace are also seen, such as the following image on a street corner.

The following pictures are from the Giris border crossing, one of the seven crossings along the Green Line. A sign declares Nicosia “the last divided capital in the world,” while a mosaic advocating peace was cleverly placed by one anonymous artist just to the side of the border crossing, which almost no passerby can miss.

One last thing: as a symbol of their conquest, the Turks in the northern half of Cyprus erected an enormous flag symbolizing their Republic. It’s similar to Turkey’s flag with reversed colors. While Turkey’s flag is red with a white moon crescent, this copied version is white with a red moon crescent. During the day it’s not as visible, but at night it lights up, and you can see its spiteful face looming over most parts of Nicosia from the Turkish mountainside. It’s the most outwardly obvious piece of political art in Cyprus.

 

 

Promotional TV Poster Undergoes Remix

You can’t get a much more straightforward message than this—a TV poster promoting the show Reaper modified to show Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Condoleezza Rice starring as “Satan’s Biggest Tools.”

Talk about harboring a grudge.

REAPING - A remixed television promotion poster for the show Reaper features Cheney, Bush, and Rice as its main characters in a satire of the Republican Party.

Both national parties undergo constant scrutiny, but in recent years, and especially in the 2012 election cycle, the Grand Old Party has taken some big hits. In a Gallup poll released just last Wednesday, a higher percentage of Americans reported having a more favorable view of the Democratic National Party than of the Republic National Party.

And, given the GOP’s recent struggles—inability to produce a quality, front-runner candidate who can hold his own, squabbles within the party, candidates’ personal attacks of opponents, and the entire party’s failure to unite unanimously behind any one candidate—it’s no wonder the boys in red are targeted by a wealth of angry citizens.

While the label “Satan’s Biggest Tools” is an obnoxious stretch, and unwarranted, it wouldn’t be surprising if the faces of Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich replaced these three soon.

‘Cain’t’ Take My Eyes Off You

Presidential elections are optimum hunting grounds for political artists. With candidates tripping up daily, opponents slandering one another, and important policy questions being answered in all the wrong ways, material for mockery and criticism abounds.

Republican Senator John McCain (Arizona) didn’t miss out on his fair share of abuse back in the 2008 presidential election against Barack Obama. Calling home Austin, Texas, this work of wall graffiti features three smiling “McCain’ts” in a fashion which reflects a flag wavering in the breeze.

"MCCAIN'T" COULDN'T - John McCain received his fair share of mockery in the 2008 presidential election, including being tagged with the nickname "McCain't".

With his outdated ideas—much like his years—McCain was not the young and fresh-faced chap the Republicans needed. Support for policies similar to those of Bush didn’t throw much favor his way either.

In the race against Obama, “McCain’t”, despite the clever new campaign slogan, had no hope of being anything other than the little engine that couldn’t.

‘Tiles for America’

I’m taking a break from looking at protest art and propaganda today to look at a unique display of art (still political) with a far more positive message.

In New York City, there exist two “Tiles for America” displays, created in remembrance of September 11, 2001. These hanging tiles are patriotic, touching, inspirational, and heartbreaking all at once. Although the two displays now consist of thousands of tiles and ceramics of all shapes and sizes, they had small beginnings.

The "Tiles for America" display was created to be a message of inspiration and hope for 9/11 survivors. Today, the display is both a poignant reminder and a touching memorial for victims.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, crowds gathered in large numbers in front of Saint Vincent’s Hospital located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 11th Street. This hospital received thousands of survivors, and hopeful relatives crowded outside the building once news of the event had spread.

In an effort to create an inspiration for recovering victims in the hospital, Lorrie Veasey (owner of OUR NAME IS MUD, also located on 11th street), began to create tiles with messages of hope and courage.

From raw clay she fashioned approximately 5000 small angels and American flags, which she and friends attached to a fence that faced the hospital on September 14. Upon being released from the hospital, many victims took a tile home with them. Others were taken by mournful relatives as consolation.

Word of the tiles spread within the art and pottery world, and within weeks, “Paint Your Own Pottery” studios across the nation were joining together to create tiles that would reflect messages of peace, unity, courage, and hope. Through this creative outlet, the nation was able to honor the brave men and women who lost their lives on September 11.

Looking down Seventh Avenue.

One tile expresses the exact purpose of the displays:

“These tiles reflect the thoughts and feelings of people across the U.S.A. in response to the events of September 11. Artists of all ages and backgrounds express their emotions here.”

Currently, more than 6000 tiles hang on chain-link fences at two different sites: the original site outside of St. Vincent’s at the intersection of 7th Avenue and 11thStreet and a second at the Tribute WTC Center on the southside of Ground Zero.

I found this tile to be especially touching.

For an up-close look at more of the tiles, watch this video: