Graffiti has been a part of Hip Hop since its humble beginnings. This work of art intertwines with Hip Hop much like Rap lyrics and rappers do. Without some of the graffiti artists in the world, Hip Hop would not be the same. Graffiti artists in India, and Bangladesh has shown what they can do. However, it is sad to note that some of our most talented in Asia will never get the opportunity to showcase their talents in a mecca for Graffiti art like 5 Pointz in New York.
We recently got a chance to catch up with one of India’s most talented Graffiti artists, Zake, as he shared his story and his art form.
How did u get started with Graffiti? Your initial step in graffiti culture?
I got into graffiti when there was actually no one in the city who was painting often. Someone who i can see painting and learn how it’s done. So I always tried to learn graffiti through movies and the internet. Streetfiles.com connected me to a lot of writers but the unavailability of good spray cans was stopping us from painting often. Fortunately, once when i was painting for a project in a resort with my crew mate SunOne and Cres away from my house, my friend saw a few people painting graffiti in my area where i stay. It was difficult for me to arrive in time but I quickly left the place to see whose painting. Speaking to the writers, i found it was ZEBSTER AND WOK from Germany. They are legendary old school writers. They gave me a few cans to practice and learn. That’s when I actually started painting Graffiti in the real way.
I paint my name, that’s what real graffiti is! Now we have an illegal as well as a legal name. We have styles to express our names and style comes with practice. The way your hand moves is different from others and that’s how you have your own unique style ! This style represents you, people know you because you paint that way. I paint a ‘ZAKE’ piece all the time because my ‘Name’ is my biggest identity. I also try to add characters to my piece so it looks more complete! It’s always fun to paint what you feel, my letters are a little camouflage, you can’t read them easily, but whatever you will witness, i bet your eyes will love it !
So has it been ever that u are doing some graffiti and cops drop in there? what is the thing u do very next moment?
Yes, recently i was painting on a train line near Bandra. The walls next to the tracks had fresh white paint which was appealing! We went there the very next day to paint them around 12.30am. Suddenly we see lights flashing at us . We were not alone. We jumped off the wall we were painting entering a Slum area in Bandra next to the tracks. We had to run throughout but we realized they weren’t following us! Hold on..Our Spray cans were still lying there…. So we had to go back to get ’em after a while ! What an awful day it was. But our piece was almost done so we didn’t really go back to enhance it. All these incidents keep happening but nothing will stop us from doing what we love to do !
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How are the graffiti scenes in Mumbai? anything you will be doing to improve them?
Graffiti in Mumbai is very very Fresh! People still don’t know what graffiti means! Not everything on the wall is graffiti… Graffiti is just about writing your name and everything else falls under street art which is mostly done in relation with the surrounding or just a painting for a social cause. We are rather selfish I believe, we paint for ourselves. Anyways, the scenes are still in progress but I see writers from Mumbai improving a lot! I have taken free workshops and organised graffiti jams with my crew in the past to educate the other writers and share my experiences!
In India people still don’t know what graffiti is and the cops don’t really care if we are painting somewhere in the day time. So it’s easy to practice your art anywhere you like. You can just say your an art student and your practicing. No one really cares. I usually hit abandoned walls where there are less people to bother you and no one cares what your doing. You just hit a spliff and all you know is that you need to make the most out of this piece. If we paint illegally (only in the night) Cops don’t understand that we are painting illegally, they think we are there on the tracks to plant a bomb or something. When the above incident took place the cops checked what we were painting twice or thrice ‘cuz they must have thought we were painting an advertisement… ! So basically it’ just so easy to practice graffiti in India and paint walls in the daytime with the owners permission.
What does Graffiti mean to you?
My life would be fucked up without Graffiti…TRUST ME! I get to express myself the way i want to ! There are no boundaries or rules in graff, you can go wild and paint the whole train down if you want .. you just need to be safe and play smart ! I always say ‘WE write because they never Listen’ …Out art is a form of expression ! i don’t care what people think about me.. but graff has truly changed my life ! i’m never sad or tensed when i’m painting.. the tension,the beef the jealousy is just gone ..It’s just me and the wall and i know i gotta give my best shot !
Any further places out there u have decided to go and try your art on?
Not places in real, but i love to paint on different surfaces! Painting a helicopter or a military tank is on my bucket list…. But travelling to places and painting is one of the things i love to do for graffiti so you might see my piece in your city in the future. Well painting trains illegally outside India is one of the things I would definitely love to do .. but not right now! Maybe after a few years when I’m not living with my parents and doing graffiti for a living.
One message you would like to give to people about Hip Hop and Graffiti?
Graffiti is an element of hip hop and people should know the difference between street art and graffiti. Graffiti is writing your name on the walls and expressing it the way you want to. Street art is something different. Painting with a theme or a thought and incorporating it with the surrounding is street art(which is not an element of hip hop). People really need to understand the street culture. Graffiti is excluded in a lot of hip hop jams which happen in the country which is the saddest part of the culture in India. I think it’s just considered to be expensive in a way and the organizers just want to make money or promote their website. Not everyone is really working for the culture! We need a chance to educate the people about graffiti and guide them in the future. For anyone else who really wants to get into graffiti or know a few things can message me without hesitation. I always love to help the ‘New kids on the block’ cuz when I started I had absolutely no one to tell me what is right or wrong! People should know that hip hop is a culture and it unites people all over the world. So you don’t represent your state, city or your country. You represent yourself in the scene!