Favara

Muftah, a Ghanaian refugee chose the word “Life”. He was working in Libya when the war started and had to flee. He couldn’t go back to Ghana because sub-saharan Africans who move south from Libya regularly get robbed by the Libyan and Nigerien police since it’s understood that they have made money. So he migrated to Europe, embarking on a small boat with 280 other refugees from all over Africa. He got to Sicily and has been working in fields picking olives, oranges, lemons, etc… In Favara, many refugees like Muftah squat abandoned houses, in particular in this neighbourhood nicknamed “Beiruth” .

He told me that you can be rich and then loose everything, material things are of little importance. The most important isn’t to run after wealth but to care about your life.

200th !!

200th mural on Share The Word Project! In the past 8 years, I’ve painted 200 murals in about 20 different countries around the world, in slums and refugee camps. My aim has been to highlight marginalised people’s voices by painting their words on their walls. I want to make the most of this landmark to thank my friends who’re with me on this adventure : the phographer @spagbertin with who this was started, my assistant Dudu, and other assistants Abdul Malek, Nono and El Afghani! Each mural I’ve painted contains one word, and each word has a person and a story behind it. So many amazing stories!

This time, Carmelo, 15, chose the word MUTURI, a Sicilian word meaning a scooter. He lives in a low income town in Sicily that has undergone a severe recession in the 90s losing 2/3 of its population. The town is in a terrible state and like many kids here, he spent his childhood almost locked inside this ghetto. These last few months, he’s been using a scooter which gives him the freedom to move around and go to neighbouring villages. He also uses it to shop for his mother. His dream is to travel far and maybe go to New York one day!

Favara

199 words so far! Show & Share The Word Project in Favara, Italy. This is a list of the 199 words I have painted around the world since I started Share The Word Project in 2013. For 8 years I have been painting words that people have chosen in slums and refugee camps around the world.

I’m currently painting my 200th mural of this on-going project in Favara, a low income town in Sicily which has been going through a brutal recession which has seen the town loose 2/3 of its population since the 90s. I have been invited by @FARMCULTURALPARK to present my work to the public!

My friend @spagbertin who’s a photographer and videomaker started this project with me 8 years ago in Indonesia. He’s with me here too to celebrate in style and colour!

FC Ingolstadt

Pictures of my 250m² mural in Ingolstadt’s stadium. FC Ingolstadt is a club playing in Germany’s profesional leagues. They asked me to paint the Südtribüne which is the main supporter’s stand. As usual I didn’t know what I was going to paint before I got to Ingolstadt. Ideas came to me as I was taken for tours around the city and spent time with the fans. The patterns surrounding the badges and coat of arms all have specific meanings. My aim was to make the fans truly feel at home. Like neighbourhoods, stadiums are all about hosting communities!

This is the 3rd football stadium I’ve painted after Berimo Stadium in Ethiopia and my local Stade Michel D’Ornano in Normandy. I feel like I should paint one is Asia or America next, so give us a shout if you happen to own a stadium in Bolivia or Uzbekistan! 😊

Everything’s freehand. No projectors, no stencils, no masking tape.

Wendy

Wendy was a loved one I lost 14 years ago and who I wish was still with me as I develop as a human and as an artist. Her love of beautiful patterns, colour combinations and design are with me everywhere I go. Her opinion about my work would matter more than anyone’s, but right now I’m happy to simply imagine it.

Thank you to @Frost, Risiko and Lukas for the spot!

Colombelles, Normandy

Robert, 77 years old, worked at the steelworks before the plant closed in 1993.
He wanted me to paint the word “Fusion” which refers to the steelworks and to the comming together of different communities of workers : the Polish, the Italians, the North Africans and the locals. They even came together with football forming their own club. It was very moving for me to see what kind of impact the steel plant had on the community, and I can’t imagine how they all felt in 1993 when the plant moved to Handan, China.
This one is for Robert, my friend Salah and all the other workers of the SMN in Colombelles.

 

Thank you to Pascale for organising the Micro-Folie event! Thank you to Rick, Clara, Erwan and the team at Le Wip for these few days of painting in a great atmosphere!
Photo by Spag Bertin

Koda’s Patience

Patience-koda-toile

Koda’s patience.
The word “patience” was given to me just once on Share The Word Project. It was chosen by Koda La Cadette in the slum of Kombo in Niger.

This year more than ever, I’m trying to be as patient as possible, working on canvases and other projects before I can return to painting in slums and refugee camps. Hope you like this one!

Acrylic on a 60x60cm canvas. Contact me for sales.

A conversation we must have

George Floyd’s murder recorded on camera seems to have exposed the brutality of racism to the world. I, like – almost – everyone, found the pictures absolutely horrifying and scandalous and I deeply hope that justice will be served. I see that everyone’s suddenly concerned and posting hashtags all over the place while this is still a trending topic.

I’m glad we’re having this conversation, but we need to go further. This isn’t just about police brutality, this isn’t just a USA problem either. This is about racism that is so deeply embedded in our world that it makes change extremely difficult. If we were to change things, we’d have to be willing to go to the root of this immense problem.

This form of racism comes straight out of colonialism and slavery. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries business-driven Europeans and dodgy scientists conveniently defined Africans as barbaric and inferior in order to justify enslaving them. Books were written and cartoons were drawn, making it official in people’s minds that melanined humans were lesser humans. We need to study and understand this in order to dismantle racism. This racism was designed to be profitable.

Then we need to understand where we stand today. And from my experiences in Africa, I don’t believe the colonial times are over. Colonialism has muted, it has soften its edges, but it’s still going very strong, driven by the same greed, and profiting the same western elite than centuries ago.

Niger’s uranium, Burkina Faso’s gold, Cameroon’s petrol, the Congo’s diamonds profit the same elite, while the Africans extracting those resources are paid just about enough to be kept alive. These modern slaves are no longer fed directly by their owners, they are given a tiny amount of money to buy food, giving an illusion of freedom. European powers no longer rule Africa officially, they now pick the heads of states of a number of countries who organise elections giving an illusion of democracy.

After centuries of domination and exploitation, the African continent, although wealthy in its soil and in its cultures, is the poorest economically. Its people and their troubles are largely ignored. No one sees the Africans dying in European-owned gold mines; no one sees the chaos going on in the Congo, profiting North American and European companies; no one realises the absurdity of the borders drawn by European leaders at the Berlin Conference in 1885, and the impact these borders have had.

It seems that no one sees or cares about what goes on in Africa, but since we care more about what goes on in the USA, we saw George Floyd’s death, the tip of a gigantic iceberg. Today, in post-slavery America, the absurd hierarchy based on the complexion of people’s skin remains. Slavery leaves scars for generations, both on how these populations are perceived by the rest of society, and on the opportunities given to the Afro-American population itself. The daughter or son of a freed slave hardly stands a chance of receiving top education, making it very hard to compete for positions of power with the rest of the population. Through segregation, and today through the social structure of the USA, Afro-Americans are on average economically poorer than the European-Americans. And on the whole, an Afro-American life is viewed as less valuable.

This form of racism which can make a US cop treat an Afro-American in such a way was born with colonialism and slavery, and I believe the first major step to dismantle racism is to end neo-colonialism, and to abolish slavery. But this time for real.