by Michaela Kwoka-Coleman
Internationally acclaimed street artist- only known by his alias of Banksy- is once again making headlines around the world. A video hosted on his website and YouTube, gives Banksy credit for a series of graffiti installations around various parts of Gaza. Through a connection of secret tunnels, Banksy was able to sneak into the country, undetected. On his website's homepage there are photos of his current work in the Middle East, many of them with captions explaining their meanings.
One picture in particular depicts a giant kitten; painted on what is remaining of a wall, the kitten is attack a wad of trash which rests against the wall. In his documentary, a local comments on the piece with “the cat has found something to play with. But what about our children”? When asked as to the significance of a kitten, Banksy states he wanted to “highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on [his] website- but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens”.
As he tries to expose the misery of those living in the Gaza Strip, Banksy is quick to highlight the continual destruction of this land. He specifically calls out many governments who refuse to take a stand against the injustices suffered by many Palestinian families. Another mural, this one penned, by the artist states a strong message: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the the powerful and the powerless we side we the powerful- we don't remain neutral”.
Regardless of your personal stance behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is hard to ignore messages as strong as these; there are major injustices being put upon primarily innocent people. Banksy's newest batch of controversy has already sparked hot debate. In other words, Banksy's completed his mission- to get people talking about things that really matter (not the optical illusion behind the color of a dress in a poorly lit photo). The majority of Banksy's documentary exposes the reality of living in Gaza. “Gaza is often described as 'the world's largest open air prison' because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons- they don't have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day”, he writes on his website.
In the past Banksy has been the subject of much praise for his thought-provoking pieces. His work and activism is so revered that he was named one of Times '100 Most Influential People of 2010'; his photo in Time Magazine is another testimony to his anonymity- you can't see his face because he has a paper bag over his head. However, not everyone has been so supportive of his propaganda; graffiti is not only illegal in the U.S, but in the U.K as well. In the legal world, Banksy is better known as a fugitive from justice, rather than a proponent of social justice and equality; his art mainly survives through pictures, as the police are typically quick to try and erase proof of his continual existence.
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