A pink taxi

A pink taxi

November 29, 2011

Graffiti with Punctuation

When a friend smsed me a cinema quote from his movie chair, while watching Contagion of all films, that negated blogging as writing, but rather as "graffiti with punctuation" I couldn't agree more! I take it as a positive.

I have always told my children that the sprayed illegible letters, the tagging, the abstract disordered painting that only spells anarchy that they discover on walls in Geneva, is an art form. We have smiled at the psychedelic, always dynamic representations that are sprayed in underground tunnels and behind train stations.
My son and I have found a larger concentration of graffiti on our bike trips as we visit all sorts of neighborhoods and cycle in many backstreets.  I explain that it is an expression of counter culture, like certain musical genres are. Geneva, the ultraconservative, the sleepy town, has its disobedient and alternative youth and they express their creativity with paint spray.

Last October, in Beyrouth, when my cousin drove us around, I came upon a personally ground-breaking graffiti that spelled "fi qalbi salam" which translates literally as "in my heart is peace". I was moved by the optimistic and poetical message and leapt out of the car to take a picture of it. Ofcourse the message meant more to me, and by extension to my cousin, because Salaam happens to be our family name, thus making the slogan sound like : in my heart, our surname. A month later I henna tatooed it on my arm. Tatoos certainly are part of the graffiti culture.

The very talented Nadine Kanso, designer of jewelery and a funky clothing line, photographer and artist extraordinaire, has also caught onto the grafitti of Lebanon and has immortalized an otherwise temporary street art into a collage photo series, depicting a juxtaposition of sloganed graffiti, each carrying its loaded message, with contrasting illustrious festive Lebanese night scenes. My own pictures of graffiti pale in comparison to hers, but I have saved them to make a distinction between the swiss graffiti and the lebanese ones.

These days my blog writing has developed into a different style, one my father qualifies as "lost in the desert". I remember being rejected by a newspaper in AbuDhabi under the simple pretext that I was not allowed to submit a text about "why I loved to hate bikram yoga". They just wanted a straight forward "I love bikram yoga" article. Like a graffiti artist, I twist my writing to my own disposition and inklings. Like graffiti, my blogs are sometimes ephemeral because as light as a song, or a children's anecdote.

Yet, I do believe that Basquiat was a graffiti artist as is Bansky. I also love the art by Leila Shawa that represents graffiti. With Nadine Kanso, these artists celebrate the powerful beauty of graffiti.

As I do, every time I add my comas to my writing, every time "I punctuate my graffiti" on the blog.

I dedicate this post to one of my two closest male cousins: a twin brother, only 2 weeks junior. A blond baby with caramel skin they always plopped next to me in baby photos, the one who used to tape the sound of shooting in Beyrouth 1982 and mail it to me, the only guy who was allowed to drive my car in Boston! Looking forward to more cruising in search of graffiti. Its your birthday: you are now my age!


  1. From Nadine to Ali is an expression of frustration of the generation which lived the darkest days and nights of the Lebanese civil war.I salute their colorful attitude and mood,in putting those horrible memories into art for Nadine,and positive sarcasm for Ali.
    Happy Birthday Bart,you are my man.
    Lovely art Nadine,you are gifted.

  2. Happy Birthday Ali! Keeping tagging the bloggosphere PTB!