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The writing is on the wall at Dan’s Muffler in Summerside

by Michelle René Sexton

The definition of graffiti is an inscription or drawing made on public surfaces without consent. Graffiti has existed since the time of ancient Rome and Greece. It was used as a form of communication, spreading social and political issues, as well as advertising. Nowadays, the term is often seen as negative, and graffiti is not considered art. However, this global art form is everywhere and in places like Quebec and parts of Europe it’s allowed and welcome. “A city without graffiti is expressionless,” says PEI graff writer Itsme.

I sat down at Dan’s Muffler in Summerside and spoke with two young writers known as Itsme and Akoz. The two were well-mannered, articulate, and a great source of information. They were talkative about what they do and in no way “dangerous,” as most believe. I took photos of the inside of Dan’s and was taken aback by the attention shown to detail and colour. The art made the previously white greasy walls pop out. “I left them alone in the shop for as long as they needed. I trusted them, and they even cleaned up after themselves,” smiled Richard Rayner, owner of Dan’s Muffler.

“Some people stop and watch,” said Itsme. “We’d rather do a piece than go bombing. Bombing is an adrenalin rush because it goes to larger areas and other writers know each other. Trains are best but harder to find because they travel, but we never paint over the numbers,” said both writers. A “bombing” refers to painting many surfaces in a short time. A “piece” refers to a larger, more labour intensive painting. A “tag” is a writers signature, and a “throw-up” is between a tag and a “piece.”

There are strict rules in graffiti. Writers have to start off in sketch books; they don’t bomb churches, mom and pop stores, or residential houses. “We don’t write vulgar pictures or hateful messages. Those are the beginners. Our writing is more technical, and each writer has their own style, tag, and name. Writers respect other writers,” said Itsme. They play off their environment and what’s around them. A closer look will show he’s right. The letters of each writer show talent and the “beginners” are giving the real writers a bad reputation. “Writers who are real don’t do graffiti because it’s illegal. They do it as art,” smiled Itsme.

When asked why they do graffiti, both agreed it was hard to say why. “I like the letters,” said Akoz. “I want my name to travel and people to know me. I want to walk places and see my work,” grinned Itsme. Also, who’s to say graffiti is a bad thing when lots of people have done it. Writing something like “Michelle was here” many times in places, leaving a mark for someone to see—that’s graffiti.

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