Image: Partially repaired damage on the Keperra Park rebound wall mural, 3 May 2013. Credit: Sam Morris.

An anti-graffiti mural at Keperra Park was vandalised within a week of its opening – but the local Councillor says vandals won’t win the fight.

The mural – and one on the other side of the wall – were the first community artworks for the anti-graffiti strategy Walls and Colours and officially opened on the 24th of April.

Just days later, one was seriously damaged.

Local Sam Morris was there while a Brisbane City Council graffiti removal team made emergency repairs three days later.

A piece of the artwork that was scraped off the Keperra Park wall mural lies in the grass, 3 May 2013. Credit: Sam Morris.

A piece of the artwork that was scraped off the Keperra Park wall mural lies in the grass, 3 May 2013. Credit: Sam Morris.

“[The vandals have] actually damaged a large section… and it’s all had to come off,” said Sam.

“It appeared that the section that they had removed was actually of the Aboriginal flag,” he said.

However, no assumptions have been made about whether the vandalism was racially motivated.

“Hopefully it wasn’t malicious,” says Councillor for Enoggera Ward Andrew Wines.

Councillor Wines says Keperra Park was chosen as the mural site due to the high recurrence rate of graffiti.

“This wall has had graffiti cleaned off over 60 times in the last four years, which is why we chose the site,” he says.

In order to remove the evidence of vandalism and return the mural to its original state, one of the lead artists was re-commissioned to re-paint the damaged section of the wall.

“The whole point of this is that you can’t let vandals win, so if they do it again we’ll fix it – and if they do it again after that, we’ll fix it again,” says Councillor Wines.

Despite the vandalism incident, Councillor Wines says Walls and Colours is a great project.

“Apart from looking great and creating a landmark for the area, it also brought in a lot of people… and built confidence.”

The project, which is implemented by Brisbane City Council and funded by the Federal Government, looks at community engagement through public art as an alternative to law enforcement for prevention of graffiti.

Peter Breen, Director and Chair of Jugglers Art Space Inc, who partnered with the Brisbane City Council to bring in the mentoring artists, says the whole idea that the mural is an anti-graffiti mural is really secondary to the aims of the work.

“We take an engagement and education process. We don’t take an eradication position,” he says.

“So we’re about educating about the relevance of public art and particularly about two-dimensional graffiti-style work. I think what it does is actually give kids a taste of developing their own arts practice.”

Artist Lux, who goes by his first name, worked with another artist Carl on the Keperra Rebound Wall, helping facilitate the workshops and coax the ideas out of the young people.

He says the Indigenous influences present in the work itself were inspired by both the area where the artwork is situated, and by the local young people involved in executing the artwork.

Councillor Wines says that Keperra is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘meeting place of young men.’

“Keperra itself was a longstanding historical site for male initiation ceremonies for the north Brisbane mobs. So Council, working with a group called Picabeen and an artistic group called Jugglers and the local state high school Mitchelton State High, found a group of young people who would inspire the works and influence where they were going and there was to be a strong Indigenous theme.”

On the side of the wall that faces east is an Aboriginal hand, Aboriginal colours, a rainbow serpent, a lot of dot work, and a lot of Aboriginal stylising, with modern stylised Aboriginal animals.

Michael Elu stands against the reverse side mural on the Keperra Park rebound wall. Credit: Ili Tulloch.

Michael Elu stands against the reverse side mural on the Keperra Park rebound wall. Credit: Ili Tulloch.

On the western side, we see a stylised story of Brisbane with the Story Bridge, trains and modern themes with a Torres Strait Islander flag in the hand.

The work incorporates aerosol, which Mr Breen from Jugglers Art Space says is an interesting element.

“For a long time council wouldn’t allow the use of aerosol in this kind of art. so I think progress has been made there,” he says.

Aerosol paint has traditionally been associated with graffiti and vandalism, which council takes a strong stance against.

Councillor Wines says that over the last 4 years, over 172,000 square metres of graffiti have been cleaned up across the city.

“That number of square metres actually reduces each year because the amount of vandalism is reducing because graffiti vandals know that Brisbane City is a tough place to get away with graffiti vandalism,” says Councillor Wines.

So why would a mural deter graffiti vandals?

“Finding a deterrent, providing penalties if you get caught for vandalizing public places and quick clean up are the three keys to battling graffiti in the city and at the moment we’re doing well,” says Councillor Wines.

“We know through our evidence and through things like the Taskforce against graffiti, that artwork does deter graffiti vandals. But even if it didn’t we’d clean it up very fast and their work would go while ours remained. That really is key.”

To Mr Breen, the ownership of the artwork by the young people is part of the intended outcome of this strategy.

“A mural is a structured programmed design piece using some of the elements of graffiti, and using the aerosol as a medium. Graffiti in its purest form would be writing on public spaces illegally using aerosol. That’s the raw definition. You would have some pure graffiti artists who would say that even in a space like Jugglers, a legal space, in the purist sense of the term isn’t where you do graffiti because you are not doing it illegally, on the run, with aerosol, in a prohibited space,” says Mr Breen.

“Graffiti writers are happy enough to be involved as they are respected now, so they’re engaged, like Lux and Carl, by councils and there is a cultural shift by councils to accept this as part of the background to our society and I think that’s a good move.”

The partner organisations for the development of the work were Picabeen Community Centre, Mitchelton State High School, Jugglers Art Space and Brisbane City Council.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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