Graffiti artists

Català Castellano

There are a thousand of elements that distinguish one city from another: people, urban design and structure, geographical relief … and graffiti (from Italian graffiti). A subway ride sometimes turns into an impromptu tour of urban art, where walls and vehicles have been rebaptized with spray. If we imagine who could be its author, we usually have a picture of the typical young guy angry at the world dressed as a rapper that dedicates his evenings to paint train tunnel walls.

Like many other aspects of this world this very simple (and simplistic) image of reality hides an amalgam of artists of all ages and with different motivations united by one goal: to transmit a feeling or idea through an urban support. It would be impossible to give in a single article a sufficiently accurate picture of the different profiles of artists that we can find in the vast world of graffiti, so I will try to catch a few examples that deviate from the typical profile to at least extend the examples that might come to our mind when we think of street art, and especially of graffiti.

Lata – 65

Yes! There is life after 65! Great paradoxes of life, sometimes you know young people who seem to go to retire and retirees with more eager than ever to learn new things. Bombed as we are 24 hours of the day with this perverse ideal of pure and eternal youth, too often we struggle when trying to paddle upstream and we find it hard not to fall into depression when it is not possible to become like them.

Luckily the real world is much richer and more varied than the images of big brands underwear models in bus stops and advertising spots, and one of the examples of this richness is, among others, the participants in the workshop of street art and graffiti that has been running for several years in the city of Lisbon with the aim of bringing generations together and respond to the concerns of anyone who wants to know more about the topic.

Participants of the workshop organized by Lata 65. Source: Rafael Marchante (Reuters PT)

Lata 65 is the organisation responsible for introducing the basic techniques of graffiti to the course participants, providing not only theoretical information but also the necessary tools to take action. The original idea was from the architect Lara Seixo Rodrigues (1979) who is also the promoter of the urban art festival in Covilhã Woolfest in collaboration with the shared workspace Cowork Lisbon LX Factor. 

Sit al-hita – WOW (Women On Walls)

What do they have in common the cities of Cairo, Copenhagen and Amman? Murals painted by women. WOW (Women On Walls) is an initiative that appeared the spring of 2013 in Egypt with the aim of using graffiti as a means of vindicating the rights of women and enhancing women’s image in the world of street art in the Middle East and Arab countries in general.


WOW is the daughter of the Arab Spring of 2011, when the revolt against Hosni Mubarak also increased the protest messages on the walls of the cities of Egypt. The Swedish journalist and photographer Mia Gröndahl documented thoroughly graffiti of that period, work that was published under the name of “Revolution Graffiti: Street Art of the New Egypt“. She also realized that from the 17,000 graffiti photographed women appeared in only 250. It was then that she decided to found Sit al-hita with the Egyptian-canadian Angie Balata.

After two years working locally in Egypt, WOW spread to other countries and organized the first urban art festival in Amman with the slogan “From fear to freedom.” During the week-long festival, 25 artists from different Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, Yemen and Syria) painted the longest wall of the Middle East.

Grafit a Afgahnistan (Photo/Shamsia Hassani)
Graffiti in Afghanistan
(Photo/Shamsia Hassani)
WOW has grown and it is currently building a network throughout the Arab world, having already more than 60 artists. In fact not only women but any artist who wants to defend the rights of women is welcome, the further objective is not so much to vindicate the political role of women but above all make them visible in the daily lives of Arab cities and show in a more direct way social problems such as sexual harassment or just give a powerful image that can lead to a change of mentality, such as something as simple as seeing a woman climbed on a ladder painting on a wall. Other artists of the group base their work on a positive view of the situation and intend to give courage to Arab women so that they become aware of their rights and strengths.

Front image: Graffiti in Egypt, source: France24

Rosa Mª Torrademé

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