Weaving the Streets (group blog)

Weavers are everywhere, and we are always looking for examples of how ordinary people are using public space to express themselves. In this blog, part of the larger "Weaving the Streets & People's Archive" project based at St. Lawrence University, we are documenting and reflecting on examples of street art and other traces of street-based actions, movements, and forms of expression that are often ignored by mainstream media.

Posters and Politics: A Report from Amman Design Week

 

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Created by Wael Morcos of Lebanon, the poster to the left highlights an important characteristic of Jordanian culture in stunning simplicity. Surprisingly to many Westerners, English is very prevalent in a Jordanian’s everyday life. When I arrived in Amman, I was caught off guard by the amount of English present. Street signs, restaurant advertisements and storefronts almost always display both the Arabic and English names. Looking into the history, I have learned that the use of both languages is is in part due to the historical occupation by Great Britain until 1946. However, English is also becoming more popular in media, music and of course, art (check out Majed Mohamed Hasan Drbseh’s comments in this article from the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications for more information on both languages in Jordan) for the general population. My initial impression of this poster was that the bold English text was targeting the Western world and urging English speakers to be aware of civil liberties. However the subtle and more graceful Arabic script suggests that it is a better representation of the blending of both languages in political life. This poster is a very accurate representation of life in Jordan, where a globalizing world has led to a need to advertise messages and communicate in both English and Arabic.

Reflections on the Murals of Gonzalo Borondo

Since returning from Rome, where I reported for the Weaving the Streets and People’s History Archive (WSPHA) project this past spring, I find myself closing my eyes and allowing a wave of visual memories to wash over my mind. After living in such a visually captivating place there are an endless number of picture perfect moments to recall, but the images I am most enchanted by are ones that surprised me.

Public Art in Rome: William Kentridge's "Triumphs and Laments"

On the night of Friday April 22nd crowds gathered along the banks of the Tiber River in anticipation of the evenings performance. While on a typical Friday night the surrounding neighborhood would be filled with pedestrians filtering their way to and from popular bars in the lively neighborhood Trastevere, but on that particular night crowds gathered waiting to witness the unassuming walls of the Tiber River transform into a once in a life time theatrical experience.

Spain: A Multicultural Nation at Heart

1080 Through my experiences traveling to two of Spain’s historical autonomous communities, Basque Country and Catalonia, I have been able to witness the high degree of cultural diversity that exists within Spain as well as the conflicts that such diversity has ignited throughout history as well as today. As I am beginning to reflect on my semester in Spain and my experiences both in and outside of the classroom, I have realized that Spain’s cultural diversity is continuing to grow. However, similar to its long history of promoting homogeneity, the nation continues to face challenges accepting and creating space for such cultural diversity. The image to the left represents a protest in the center of Madrid with citizens protesting EU regulations, of which Spain has agreed to, that have denied immigrants of basic human rights.

Habari?

Habari gani? Directly translates to “what’s the news?” This is the common, everyday greeting in kiswahili. In the weeks and months I have spent in Kenya and now Tanzania, I have found that both Kenyans and Tanzanians are very well informed of what is happening in their own country, their neighboring countries, and the world. The news is blasting from almost every radio and television, sometimes at all hours of the day and night. Everywhere you turn on the streets of Nairobi or Arusha, you can find a newspaper to buy for just a few shillings.

Independència in Cataluña: In the Streets and Under Negotiation

1044 During my recent trip to Barcelona I continued my investigation on the expression of Basque and Catalan nationalist identity and sentiments through the use of public space. Although I did not find many stickers expressing nationalist sentiments I noticed several banners promoting independence as well as Cataluña flags hanging from the balconies of apartment buildings as I explored the city. 

"Drop Bass, Not Bombs"

The mural commemorating the Westgate shooting, which I discussed in my first “Weaving the Streets” blog post, is not the only example of Kenyans voicing their dislike of the violence they have been enduring through street art. As my WSPHA colleague Megan Kloeckner noted in an earlier post, matatus (the buses and vans that make up Nairobi and Kenya’s public transportation system) are an important part of the country’s street culture scene. Each vehicle has its own personality—they are decorated with art from religious symbols to graffiti to photos of hip-hop artists. They blast music and are painted in bright colors.

First Observations - Kenya

Hello! My name is Meg Chandler and I am a junior at St. Lawrence University currently studying in Kenya. I found Weave News through my professors and classes as a Global Studies major. My focus, so far, within my major is on street art in Nepal and Kenya. Last spring (2015) I studied abroad in Nepal and became involved in a mural with many of the prominent Nepali street artists. Last semester (fall 2015) I focused on my experience in Nepal and with street art in particular in my Global Studies classes and I took an experimental street art studio course with Cathy Tedford, director of the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery. Cathy introduced my class to the People’s History Archive—an online archive of stickers, posters, and anything in the realm of street art and street culture. Throughout the semester, I was able to contextualize my experience in Nepal and relate it to my academics. When I found out I was going to Kenya, she suggested I look into the Weaving the Streets & People’s History Archive (WSPHA) project, which would enable me to write for the “Weaving the Streets” blog during my semester abroad. So as a result of my major, my semester in Nepal, and Cathy Tedford, I found WSPHA and am pursuing my passion for street art culture!

"El Johnny": More than just a building!

1038 So far I have told you a lot about what has happened with the building, “El Johnny” in my earlier posts, when the squatters were occupying it, however I have mentioned little about the college residency called San Juan Evangelista. The college residency was active for about fifty years until political conflict quickly led to the building’s downfall and abandonment. Throughout this article my hope is that you will learn more about how “El Johnny” went from a lively cultural music center for students, to an abandoned building open to potential squatters. When I dug deeper into my investigation on “El Johnny”, I realized that the conflict surrounding the building truly began in 2009 and some can say it had its challenges way before. [Image source: http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/05/28/andalucia/1243504198.html]

Rome is a Visual Battlefield

1028 A black and white sticker depicts the face of a man with a question mark instead of facial features, wearing a hat with the word Standard written across the brim. Standard's tag can be found all over Rome, sometimes exhibited with text such as "Standard is my mate" and "Standard was here", posted on every lamp, street sign, and local bar's bathroom around the city. While depicting the same person, the sticker's massive quantity surpasses the feeling of an individual’s presence; instead Standard has created his own brand or logo easily recognizable to anyone who is paying attention. 

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Viewed with a similar frequency are a coat of arms with two intersecting keys and a crown, molded into the facade of buildings, sculptures, monuments and other surfaces of public architecture. After a couple weeks of passive observation I finally researched the significance of the ornate structure learning that it indicated the Pope's authority, the keys representing the link between earth and the heavens and a three-crowned tiara representing the Pope's headdress.

To a cultural outsider learning the visual clues of a foreign place, Standard's graffiti tag and the Pope's coat of arms serve the same function of marking territory, asserting dominance, and carving out space within the long complex history of this ancient city.