Sandra Bland Mural Defaced by Other Street Artists in Canada
An Ottawa, Canada mural dedicated to Sandra Bland—the African-American woman who was recently found dead in a Texas prison cell, inspiring widespread protests disputing suicide as her cause of death—was defaced mere hours after its creation. The most shocking part? It was likely other street artists who did it.
The mural was conceived by Kalkidan Assefa and Allan Andre, two members of the local art and activism crew Blak Collectiv. The vibrant portrait of Bland was painted on July 26 on the Tech Wall, a public wall dedicated to street art and graffiti, where Complex reports that members of Blak Collectiv have been painting tags and messages like “Black Lives Matter” for over a month.
Assefa and Andre began painting on the morning of July 26, sharing updates on Instagram and on the Blak Collectiv Facebook page, and finishing up by the end of the day.
Just 24 hours after the mural was completed, someone had painted “All Lives Matter” over her name. Activists responded by re-painting Bland’s name and other obscured details hours later, and by the afternoon of July 28, the mural was back to its original state.
This isn’t the first time tags and artwork addressing race by Blak Collectiv and other groups have been defaced at the Tech Wall. Metro News Ottawa reports that members of the local street art community have taken issue with activists covering up art that’s been in the area for some time.
“I’m all for people protesting, but think of what you’re doing first,” local artist Mike Gall told Metro News. “It’s our community that’s been painting here for so long, and we take offense to stuff like this, no matter what the cause.”
Gall also said that members of the community were not pleased with the level of skill that went into some of the works painted by Blak Collectiv and other activists. He noted that the popular street art expression “burn or take your turn” refers to the notion that one should not paint over the work of more technically skilled artists, regardless of the cause.
We think perhaps its time for Gall and other members of the local street art community to recognize that art with a message sometimes trumps art with a history.
“If you think your piece of art is more important than black people dying then you’re approaching this in the wrong way,” responded Blak Collectiv member Adae Baj, who also noted the irony in the fact that street art stems from predominantly black traditions.
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