When I think of graffiti in America, I picture an abundance of crudely scrawled phallic symbols. The graffiti in Europe is different. It commonly serves as thoughtful street art rather than adolescent defacement of buildings. It may be created and therefore viewed with higher regard because there is a long history of using graffiti to release feelings of turmoil during times of political unrest in Europe.
Maureen, Sarah, and I found ourselves ogling the abundance of colorful street art while walking to a concert on Karli Straße one evening. There was an intensely realistic jaguar ready to pounce on us from one building. On the other side of the street, we viewed witty (if slightly anarchist) German political cartoons. Almost every drawing was a unique expression of creativity and hard work. The concert venue itself was in a hidden courtyard with an old skate park and basketball court, both splashed with signatures and ethereal designs. We had an interesting time trying to translate the German slang spray painted on the walls of the concert hall. Though it was frequently hard to absorb the intended message through the language barrier, there was one piece of art I saw that spoke for itself. It was outside a small café on Karli Straße, and it featured a small child, possibly a refugee, curled up in a ball on the side of the street. The poignancy was heightened by the well-dressed man surfing on his smart phone, oblivious to the scene behind him.
The street art outside of Leipzig was just as stunning. Maureen and I had the privilege of visiting the John Lennon wall in Prague. The wall has been a canvas for messages of love and peace since the 1980’s. There is a certain magic that lingers in the air around it. It inspires joy and sincerity in the viewers. After signing our names on the wall, we got caught up in singing an interesting rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” started by some Chinese tourists. Everyone joined, and the choppy English and varied accents made for a chorus Lennon would have enjoyed.