While most of us use walls for spitting, sticking bills, urinating, and writing cheesy love messages at will, there are some people who have made walls the perfect tool to give voice to millions of children. Street art was and continues to be an important medium for artists to express their thoughts on varied matters, even in the age of social media!
Here’s a collection of street artists across the world who are painting childrens’ worlds and expressing their stories of struggle in an attempt to draw attention to a whole generation of young people living discoloured childhoods.
Banksy is a quasi-anonymous, elusive, English graffiti artist. His satirical pieces of art often include children amongst others. From children whose lives have been ravaged by Syria’s civil war, the plight of child labourers in third world countries, the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, lost childhoods, and a host of social and political issues that affect the next generation, Banksy’s art never fails to leave an impact.
Today, the name Banksy ignites controversy, starts conversations and piques curiosity; forcing us to stop and think—something that we often avoid doing in our day-to-day lives. The most controversial street artist to emerge on the global stage, his works have appeared in America, Australia, Canada, England, France, Israel, Jamaica and Palestine.
‘I am just a scream on [a] wall’ is how Nafir aka Scream humbly describes himself. The history of revolution in Iran is deeply connected with graffiti. In Iran, urban art is on the rise thanks to artists whose public work questions the country’s social and political status quo. Nafir is one such artist. Working constantly and stubbornly, refusing to be silenced by the powers-that-be. As many of his subjects are children, with an emphasis on child labour, substance abuse and poverty, a clear message emerges: this is the lost, forgotten generation with a diminishing identity. But Nafir seems to counteract that by documenting their faces, in groups and alone, on all urban surfaces. His involvement in charity work and deep sense of empathy shine through these touching portraits; despair, melancholy, but also pure happiness flourish in Tehran with every new stencil. Even though his works are usually erased by the Iranian authorities within a 24-hour period, Nafir continues on with what he calls his fight against oppression.
Nemo has been an active street artist since 2008. He believes in ‘social graffiti’, graffiti that addresses political and social issues, showing both the problem and proposed solutions within the art. His work discusses issues like street children, poverty, sexual harrassment, feeding homeless children and also lends a voice to the troubled youth of Egypt. He sees his art as the honest media of the city, free from bias or vested interest, and able to communicate with the viewer on their level.
Alias is the busiest Berlin based street artist. The streets are literally covered with his paint. From his introverted characters, an audience can observe that Alias feels exhausted by a disconnected society – making him one of the most poignant street artists around. Most of his work depicts children and teenagers in dangerous situations. Their faces look soft and angelic but there is always something dangerous going on in the background. His work on children’s issues includes the dangers of social media for children, the emotions of innocent children, faceless children disconnected from the world, children sitting on bombs, and many more. Today, his work can be found across Europe.
“I care about the social problems and more specifically about the kids and the new generations. The political circumstances affect all the problems of society, so they possibly also affect my work and inspiration.”– Stamatis
A street and fine artist from Athen, Stamitis is both passionately creative and socially active. His every piece of art carries a deeper message or a statement about social values, popular opinions or current events. Stamitis conveys messages from the next generation by giving a voice to an often voiceless group in society; young children. This is not to say that each street art poster addresses serious issues – many paste-ups show children laughing, smiling and celebrating all of the possibilities that the future may bring.
French street artist Dran uses his art to comment on issues concerning contemporary society. Being labeled “the French Banksy” by some, he utilises his dark sense of humour to criticise modern culture, often tackling topics concerning art, creativity, and the freedom of expression. These recurring themes in Dran’s works are often depicted through children equipped with crayons- bringing to light the naturally imaginative mind of children while questioning the suppression and imprisonment of such creativity.
Bumblebee, Los Angeles
With a focus on themes of innocence, communication and coming of age, Bumblebee’s stencil and sculptural works are most often rendered in the simple, but instantly identifiable colour palette of yellow and black. Ongoing campaigns range from the remodeling of urban furniture such as abandoned phone kiosks and newspaper boxes to large-scale mural projects that address and work to raise awareness of issues such as youth homelessness.
He is the Vancouver artist who has caught Banksy’s attention- iHeart! He stencils graffiti with social commentary on contemporary issues with minimal use of colours, similar to Banksy himself. He too believes that anonymity is a must and mostly features children in his works to convey his message.
Leena Kejriwal, India
A photographer and installation artist by profession, Leena was also involved with 2 NGO’s in Kolkata, India working on the issue of female trafficking and prostitution of young girls. She learnt that 1.2 million girls were being trafficked at an average age of 11-14 years, backed by a lucrative business model leaving few risks for the traffickers. Project “Missing” was Leena’s brain child to make people take notice of the magnitude of the issue by creating engaging pieces of art that draw people and spark conversations in large public spaces. Her large scale installations and stencils of faceless, lifeless, dark and voiceless girls are a reminder of how many vulnerable girls go missing in India.