Historically, graffiti has been used to subvert authority or spread anti-social messages, but in Morocco, one municipality has turned the art form on its head by getting kids to “tag” pro-society slogans instead.
In an effort to promote better environmental stewardship and civil participation, the Al-Dusheira municipal council teamed up with civil society groups such as the al-Dusheriah Associations Forum (Majd) to host a graffiti or mural competition on International Environment Day earlier this year.
Volunteer students were given free reign to tag designated walls, but instead of spreading “down with government” messages, as youth are historically wont to do, organizers encouraged them to use the time and space in a manner that celebrates art, green spaces, and both Arab and indigenous Amazigh culture.
“You can be anybody’s son, but good manners are better than good lineage,” one slogan read, the Common Ground News Service reported. “A clean neighborhood is worthy of its citizens,” read another.
The volunteer students judged in various categories, including the best slogan and the most beautiful mural, received rewards for their artwork.
Graffiti has not always been an accepted art form in the Muslim world – or in any country for that matter – since it is typically associated with social deviants who protest against the status quo. In Egypt, for example, several resistance pieces popped up all over Cairo during recent clashes between citizens and heavy-handed authorities.
In Tunisia, graffiti grew in popularity following the Jasmine Revolution and a couple of artists have distinguished themselves on the international scene. VA-JO and el Seed have also moved their work from the street into fashion by tagging clothes and accessories.
As political turbulence continues to unsettle countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco is determined to maintain stability without the kind of violence on display in Syria, for example, which has stranded more than two million refugees and killed more than 100,000 people.
Albeit a neat and smart initiative, it is unlikely to eclipse the more subversive brand of graffiti as many Moroccans still feel alienated by King Muhammed IV’s social and economic policies.