The word graffiti is derived from the Italian word graffiato which means to scratch. However graffiti draws its roots from Greek word graphein meaning to write. Graffiti has been in use since the Stone Age when man used animal bones and sticks to scratch messages on cave walls which served to gather historic evidence. In ancient times graffiti was done using sharp objects, chalk or coal. This has however changed with the invention of aerosol sprays, marker pens, paints and stencils which are used nowadays to put up graffiti. In US graffiti has become intertwined with hip hop culture where the graffitists express their political and social ideas on walls. The first known modern graffiti is located in Greece.

Ancient graffiti was used as a form of declaring love, criticism of politics and the artist’s free thoughts or ideas. These writings have helped in studies concerning language and its development and also changes in culture. One common graffiti is `Briss was here’ which can be found in walls inside classrooms and public facilities like bathrooms. Graffiti is has also been used to raise awareness or voice political slogans all over the world. Graffiti has been used to keep memories, of friendship or love on wet cement and these writings remain intact for along time even for decades. In underground culture, graffiti is used as a symbol of a certain gang and sometimes a gang paints a certain street to mark its territory. Street graffiti is has since spread and is found in almost all countries in the world. Each country has its own culture and different means of expressing it as graffiti.

According to Graffiti New York (part 1) old School street graffiti increased in popularity especially in New York in the 1970 where artists painted subway cars and street walls. During this time, fighting or declaring territories was unheard of. In the 1980, the graffiti culture was in the decline in New York due to restrictions and law enforcement against street graffiti. This created tension and street gangs started grabbing and marking their territories crating violence and crime.

Nowadays street graffiti has become commercialized in form of movies with graffiti themes, video games, music and t-shirts. Fashion labels are employing graffiti artists to make their products attractive to the younger generation. Art museums have also embraced the creativity of graffitists and are now incorporating their works in their display.

However, in most countries painting on someone else wall without permission is a crime punishable by jail term or fine. In Europe especially, anti-graffiti laws have been passed as politicians get in the frontline to kick street graffiti out, (Daniel and Walter). This has been due to complaints from the public that street graffiti is making the streets look untidy and depreciating property value. In US, street graffiti is popularly put up on street walls, traffic lights, newspaper stands, literary on anything stationary which is also illegal especially if drawn without consent,(Jessica).Street graffiti is also associated with crime and violence for its popularity in the black race and areas with high crime rates.

Graffiti has grown to be incorporated in the growing era of technology in the form of projected images and magnetism. Yarn bombing is a form of street graffiti originating from Texas where tailors look for ways to get rid of the waste yarns through artistic expressions. Although a form of expression, street graffiti is yet to be declared as legal or vandalism.



Daniel D’Amico and Walter Block. “ A legal and economic analysis of graffiti.’’ Humanoconomics 23.1 (2007). Emerald. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

Graffiti New York. History part 1. Cyberbench. 2009.  Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

Jessica Fargen.  “Graffiti paints bleak landscape. ” McClatchy – Tribune Business News  23 January 2011 ABI/INFORM Dateline, ProQuest. Web.  2 Feb. 2011.


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