Street Art Mecca made a flying visit to La Neomudéjar in Madrid and filmed some of the highlights from the current exhibition. We met a resident artist, Greg Gobel, and he took us on a tour of the location and his studio.
The Neomudejar is a cutting-edge arts center and artist residency. This avant-garde arts centers priority is to encourage, promote and give visibility to emerging creators.
Questions & Answers with graffiti creator Hamza Abu Ayyash for Street Art Mecca
Hamza Abu Ayyash was born in Lebanon, from both Palestinian parents. His father is from Hebron and mother is a refugee born in Jordan, in the Al Zarqaa refugee camp. Both parents were with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. He traveled from Lebanon to Syria, then to Tunisia to settle in Jordan until 1997 so he considers himself from the whole region but he holds both Palestinian and Jordanian nationalities.
“I have stories for nearly every piece i did, one of them happened in Bethlehem”
“It was 2 am, me and two friends were next to the wall I was planning to do my piece on, after chatting a bit, I was holding my sketchbook and all the spray paint cans were around me, a car for Palestinian intelligence stopped next to us and a guy stepped from it ad he was wearing uniform, he was 1st Lieutenant”.
* What are you doing and who are you?!” the Lieutenant asked
“My name is Hamza Abu Ayyash, I’m an artist.” I replied
* Show me your ID.” the Lieutenant ordering me
“Here you go.” I gave him my ID
* What are you doing here? What do you want to do on the wall? Slogans for political parties?
“No, here is the sketch.”
I showed him my sketch that was showing in it a white character holding his head with both of his hands while his guts forming the historical map of Palestine, and a text next to it that says “My guts declare my identity”, the man became emotional, and showed the sketch to the rest of his colleagues, they were also touched, then he told me: “You know, all of us in this patrol were ex-prisoners at the Israeli jails for more than 9 years each… carry on, and we’ll watch over you as long as you keep up what you do.”
“That piece was one of my most favourites”.
The white character in Hamza Abu Ayyash work had it’s first appearance during the major hunger strike in 2012 by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.
“I translated the spirit and the morales into visual form of muscles, and because I’m trying to illustrate someone in particular; the character was faceless, but taking many poses, along with arabic text completing the visual message”
An Interview with Graffiti Artist Agana by Street Art Mecca. Featured Artist No.7
By Anna Garbus
It’s not like Agana to avoid obstacles. And yes there were obstacles when she began to paint. In the first place, the absence of women: “In Oakland she was the only girl painting in the street with fifty guys. It was hard to get respect, you have to work twice as hard”. Then there are the stereotypes: “People who are passing by, look at your work and tell you it’s good for a woman. ” Another classic example, the police: “At fourteen I was doing graffiti and they arrested me. They wanted to send me to jail, and in the end I got 50 hours of community service”. But the fact is that this street-artist life, forged over ten years in the artistic turmoil of San Francisco Bay, transformed her challenges into strengths and is at the core of her art.
She did so with her womanhood: Agana is now part of Few and Far Women, a “crew” sponsored and formed by a group of international artists, most from the United States, who keep moving around the world – or surf on skateboards - painting large murals everywhere, distributing educational talks and workshops, creativity and social justice or organising artistic female productions. “The big difference with other “crews ” is that we’re not exclusive. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we want to paint with all girls. It is an amazing experience”. So four years ago the founding members were gathered together by the artist Meme in Oakland with the intention of celebrating woman within street art. “A huge mural with more than thirty women painted together: 2Fly, the Australian Mila … We were inspired by each other, to bounce ideas off each other and to collaborate. It was so nice working together at that time that we decided to form the group”. The title of this first collaborative work of art, Far and Few, has become the name and symbol of an alliance that artists sign whenever they can, each with its own style, on the walls of many cities.
From “few” women in street art now they are becoming “many”. “We connect with more all the time: we receive letters and emails, pictures of girls painting … maybe there have always been girls painting, but they were afraid to reveal their identity. I think it is always easier for a man ….“ It’s hard to explain why: Agana squirms in her seat looking for words to explain this feeling. A memory surfaces from the depth of her mind: “We were painting and my friend was chased by the police. The officer sprayed her face with spray. I don’t think he would have done if it had been a man“. She, like many, is covered up and dresses like a guy during their night raids. Others simply prefer to remain anonymous. “Sometimes it’s better that no one knows who you are and you just do your art.” The fact that the scene is “saturated with male figures” motivates her to portray women: challenging, sweet and powerful. “I want to be a voice for them and their inclusion in the arts. It is very important for young girls to see other girls creating, that empowers them”. The artist’s eyes sparkle with passion, when she is speaking of the potential of street art and how much it can benefit and positively impact communities and people. “Once I drew an energetic self confident Latina Chicana surrounded by paint brushes … One day I got mail from a 15 year old girl: she wrote that she had gone through a very dark time and had contemplated suicide. She had come across my painting on the street and something had changed. She had stayed there looking at it and ended up identifying with it. She felt beautiful and powerful.“Now I want to live” she wrote.” I would never have imagined that my art could have this effect”. Since then, “I think about that girl every time I paint and I decided to paint only things that make the viewer feel good or you can positively identify with”.
This film has subtitles in English and Spanish which are activated on the bottom right of the video player window.
But this doesn’t mean she forgets about the social and global issues that most affect her. She dedicates a lot of her art participating in projects such as the organisation Mission Mural 415, which has helped to change some streets in San Francisco, previously rife with crime, prostitution and drug abuse, into open spaces where families and tourists can enjoy the colours of the murals as they stroll around the neighbourhood. Agana also works with the organization Water Writes, by drawing murals focused on the problem of drinking water worldwide in regards to scarcity, privatization and trade.