The art of spraying walls, Graffiti, is illegal in many countries around the world. India is no different, as it considers Graffiti to fall under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976. However, over the years our country’s tolerance towards it has increased a lot.
In the current times, getting the walls of your houses painted by artists is a common trend. People are willingly paying or allowing Graffiti artists to spray paint on their property. Big brands like Adidas, Nike etc. have hired professional Graffiti writers to paint the walls of their outlets. However, if caught trespassing, things could get ugly.
Graffiti writers in India or South Asian countries in general are much safer compared to the Western World. While it is common in the States for a spray painter to be jailed for a span of years, it is uncommon in South Asia. According to sources, the penalty under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act is a fine up to 1000 INR and/or imprisonment for a term of six months.
However, if prior consent is taken from the property owner, Graffiti artists are nothing but encouraged to pour their artistry over the walls. One such example is the Khirki Village in Delhi where artists from around the world have brought the walls to life. In Mumbai the walls of Bandra are decorated with beautiful pieces of Graffiti. As well as in Kolkata, where a stretch of wall is completely dedicated to artists who spray paint.
While the penalty is lenient compared to USA, graffiti is technically still illegal in India. We got in touch with India’s leading Graffiti artist Zake.
Zake tell us, have you ever run into trouble with the law for spraying tags?
Yes I’ve been chased a couple of times. Facing the cops is a penalty itself. Although it’s not so much to bribe them and get away but they judge you for being there in the night doing things you’re told not to do. They say they are there for our safety but when you’re caught they ask you to F off from the place stating someone may stab or rob us.
Furthermore, if you’re on the train tracks in the middle of the night there is no explanation expected cause we can’t really convince them that we are there to paint. They get confused and we usually have to run away. Train tracks are scary in the night and there are a lot of shady people that can harm you. Also the cops think that you are there for the wrong reason. In fact, some call us terrorists too!
How do you think this affects the future of Graffiti in South Asia?
This totally defines the future of Graffiti. Kids don’t really want to take the risk. I think I have done my part and now it’s the time to take some responsibility. Although I won’t stop painting illegally in the streets cause that’s where I come from. However, my main focus will be on developing my art. I don’t really see new taggers everyday. Just same old people or a new guy popping out for a month and just fading away.
Also, I can’t deny that a lot of people want to learn this art but don’t really want to take the risk of doing it full time. I understand most of them are kids and live with their parents which makes it difficult so as to explain what you’re doing. But yes I think it will take some more time for people to realize the strength of this art form. Till then, I just want to keep doing my shit to inspire the younger generation and bring a new change in the city.