Belgrade abounds with graffiti, not all of it art. Though much of it is obviously done by talented artists, many of it is just scribbles or love notes. Nearly every building in the heart of Belgrade is stained with graffiti. You will find it on apartment buildings, schools, cafes, banks, even churches display a fair share of graffiti. In the US, when you see graffiti, it symbolizes a bad neighborhood, once you start seeing it, you kindof want to leave the area. But here, you can’t have that mentality, or else you would think all of Belgrade was a giant ghetto. And it certainly is not. My idea is to scrub it all off and then paint over it from 20 feet down on all the buildings with chalkboard paint, and therefore, graffiti could be drawn, erased, and redrawn on every building, and the canvas space would be indefinite.
Here are a few of the standout graffiti art displays, most of these are from around blok 45 in Novi Beograd. Some are from near the faculty of law area near Studenski Trg. “The Kids are not Slaves” is near Slavija.
I can’t say it better than this girl, Maggie Page. This is an excerpt from her facebook posting:
“On the political side of things, there are a lot of messages about Kosovo, mostly insistences that Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Nearly every street has some sort of anti-European Union tag and I have seen more than one swastika hastily sprayed onto buildings, including one on my street.
I think the mentality leading to copious amounts of graffiti in the inner cities of the U.S. is the same that leads to so much of it here. Graffiti seems to be a way of expressing oneself when other forms of expression feel fruitless. It is simultaneously anonymous and in-your-face, a visible and at least semi-permanent way to be seen and heard.
Graffiti happens when entire generations feel disenfranchised and ignored by their government, culture, or the rest of the world. To a certain extent, I think the Balkans have been ignored be the rest of the world (or, perhaps more accurately, given only negative attention). Ask the average American what they know about Serbia and most of them (in my experience) will think you are asking about Siberia. Ask about Bosnia or Kosovo and they will tell you about ethnic cleansing. That isn’t much to build a national identity on, and it isn’t accurate, because there is so much more to these places than the wars they have seen.
In my preparation to come here I learned about war and politics and fear and hate. No one told me that the coffee was so good I would be tempted to stay forever. No one told me I would be welcomed with open arms into every home I visited. No one mentioned that Belgrade is full of beautiful parks, second only to Glasgow for the city with the most green space in Europe. No one said the art scene is flourishing on Belgrade’s ancient streets. In light of that, I would like to do my part for this strange and wonderful part of the world. The stories of violence and suffering are true, a lot of terrible things have happened here in recent years and no one escaped without some kind of scar, but there is so much more than that here. There is life and fun and love and beauty in every corner of this place just waiting to be discovered.”