The birth of graffiti is kind of hard to pin down. Believe it or not, such a simple question as; where did Graffiti start -as we know it- isn’t such a straight forward answer. Sure in the late 60’s North American cities like Philadelphia & New York City had their local bombers, the proverbial taggers of their time. Philly had Cornbread getting fame & in NYC TAKI 183 was clearly making a name for himself.
Though one could argue “Kilroy was here” an American symbol that became popular during World War II was getting hella fame in the 1940’s, the phrase & accompanying doodle (the top of a guys head peeking over a wall w/an elongated nose) was associated with GIs; & “Kilroy” was the american version of Australia’s “Foo was here” that originated in World War One.
All the way back to the pharaohs of old where they were clearly immortalized all throughout Egypt . From Seti I, Khufu, Tutmosis II, Tutankhamen & Cleopatra II (likely out of dynastic order) to this day you can walk through ancient Egypt & see graffiti prominently still echoing their namesake. Though it might not be featured in the traditional sense, being carved into stone as opposed to the aerosol spray paint currently used to display masterpieces of peoples names; our version of art is no less important especially for the fact that if you were to walk in to The Met you are likely to see an old Time Magazine picture featuring Kilroy, followed by Egyptian pottery in one room, and 1980’s graffiti on canvas in the next.
I’m not even gonna get into the cave men who were painting on walls, because they weren’t really writing their names for fame they were doing more traditional art; in the aspect of bison was killed here, elephant was there & killed my brother -etc. Yet I will argue The ancient Egypt angle only because not only did they create a lot of the pigments that we still use to this day, but people are most definitely trying to get fame; I mean all the pharaohs I named in this article you can literally find their names still on the walls of ancient Egypt amongst many many more
-& that my good readers is the essence of graffiti.
So in summation, pinning down graffiti’s roots may not be the easiest question to answer, but it sure is fun to explore where the true roots of this artform actually come from.
Enrique “Ider” Valentin