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Graffiti in Singapore II

There has been a lot of interest in my first blog entry on Street Art in Singapore. ABC radio even did an interview with Kamal Dollah. So I have been writing more emails and finding out more about Singapore’s street art scene from Slac.  Kamal didn’t discuss the politics of street art in Singapore (SG). Slac emailed me about his personal, political, criminal, judicial struggles for street art.

Mark – What are the roots of Singapore Graffiti? How did you get started?

Slac – “I see the roots of graffiti in SG growing back in 1994-95, ironically, that’s not the reason why I started. I started my crew (ZNC)  back in 1998 without knowing the existence of SG graffiti. Me and my friends were influenced by a bombing video called DIRTY HANDZ. The mentality of our crew during that time is to go out and bomb, without any visions of getting fame or respect by the graff scene here. It’s just a personal mission to put graffiti on the streets of Singapore. Coz, during those times, the society here didn’t even know what is graffiti is all about. So for us to express ourselves on a big scale; we can’t just go up to people and ask permission to spray on their walls, they will think that we are crazy!  haha. So every night, we just go about and do our things.

Mark – Typical teenagers, but in Singapore you were facing draconian anti-graffiti laws with jail and canings, so what happened?

Slac – 2 years later, my crew were finally busted by the cops on a night mission. That is where we made the impact on the news: what is graffiti? why did they do it? Me and my crew got away from the jail sentence plus the strokes of the cane after more than a year pending. We took a lawyer to fight it and got a 1 year probation. When I think of it now, I ask myself: why must we get away just because a lawyer is by our side?

Mark – Did probation deter you from doing graffiti?

Slac – In 2001, while serving my 1-year probation, I joined my 1st graff competition here in SG. I won 1st and that’s where me and my crew got the respect that we deserved plus the recognitions that we are the vandals that the public criticised in the news as ‘the bad apples’.

Mark – What do you think about the legal street art in Singapore?

Slac – We got to place to express ourselves in at sk8park with no walls. After that I didn’t really see the support there but it’s a start. 2 or 3 years later did we finally get our own legal wall. That itself was a struggle. All we want is more walls where we can paint and get creative freely, but if we are gonna be treated unfairly even on a legal phase then only time will tell. I don’t mind getting a call or being interrogated by the authorities whenever new vandal cases pops up coz I know my rights.

Mark – And why do think that illegal graffiti is still important?

Slac – What I’m trying to say is that we had to do the illegal graffiti to open the eyes of the society or those with the powers to realize that we do need the space. New upcoming graffiti writers need the space to practice and if there are no places for them to go to then don’t blame them for being real on the streets. Without illegal graffiti, there will be no graffiti now in SG. Although it is easier to get graffiti jobs nowadays, I don’t see the purpose of holding back graffiti artists from expressing their art with freedom. Hence, if I see a tag or bombings on the street here, I applaud them.

Mark – So you see artistic expression as a human right?

Slac – This is one of the issues for citizens of Singapore. There’s no freedom of speech. You have to be either a rebel or something more than that to get the attentions. Graffiti is not just something that you can ask for, its something that you just take. This is just the kind of struggles that we writers in Singapore had to face. This is Singapore, if international graffiti writers think that we are not hardcore enough then I welcome them to try it here.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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