Sunday, September 2:  The first thing that strikes me about the streets of modern-day Athens is that there is hardly a surface that isn’t covered by graffiti.  It doesn’t surprise me that googling “graffiti in athens” brings up much discussion on the subject.  In Matt Barrett’s Athens Survival Guide: Graffiti and Wall Art in Athens, the author notes that the word “graffiti” comes from the Greek graphi, which means “to write.”  He says that nowadays the graffiti is a cry from disaffected kids who want to be noticed, to have a voice.  He adds that nothing is sacred, including restored Neoclassical buildings, ancient stones in the Agora, or even previous graffiti art.

a typical street scene in Athens with graffiti-covered walls in the background

Street art in Monastiraki

more graffiti in Monastiraki

According to Nick Jardine and Adam Taylor in The Dark And Beautiful Graffiti Of Athens’ Disaffected Youth, the wall art, brought on by austerity measures in Greece, affects even buildings such as the 2004 Olympic Stadium, as well as churches and monuments.

this graffiti is found outside the 12th century BC cemetery of Keramikos

Graffiti outside Keramikos

According to Time Magazine Photos: Protest Graffiti Art in Athens, the Greek economic crisis and recession has become a major inspiration for street artists in the capital.

more street art outside of Keramikos

If the economic crisis and austerity measures are responsible for what is called “Protest Art” by many publications, then it appears it’s been going on since at least 2008, four years after Athens hosted the Olympic Games.  I can find online references to Athens street art going back to at least that date.  It’s very possible it goes back further than that, even to ancient times, as Matt Barrett claims in his article.

Along a random street I pass on the Hop On Hop Off bus

I’m heartbroken to see Greece going through this terrible economic crisis.  It’s too bad for the Greek people, who work hard and normally try to enjoy life to the fullest.  I talked to many Greeks during my travels, and I found, without exception, they are quite worried.  You can see it in the lines on their faces, in the way they click their strings of worry beads, and in their fascinating street art.

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About nomad, interrupted

As of July 15, 2015, I'm now taking a break from living abroad. I'm living in Oakton, Virginia and looking for my next opportunity. Last year, I lived in China and taught English at Sino-Canadian International College. I also taught at a university in Nizwa, Oman for two years, and in Korea's public schools for one year. I love to travel and have been to 24 countries.

14 responses »

  1. […] walkway, and I am struck by all the graffiti on the walls along the path (See my earlier post: graffiti in athens: youth crying out to be heard in the midst of economic crisis?).  When I go inside, I am happy to escape into the air-conditioned Kerameikos Museum, a small […]

  2. adinparadise says:

    Oh, I missed this post, Cathy. I actually find it really shocking that people could bring themselves to deface ancient monuments and churches in this way. I always ask myself the question, “if they are out of work, where do they get the money from to buy all the paint, as it doesn’t come cheap these days?”

    • I know, paints are definitely not cheap. I think it’s their way of making a statement. It was amazing to me how much graffiti there was EVERYWHERE in Athens, on every inch of open space. I think it reflects the state of mind of the citizens right now; possibly they are feeling hopeless and angry at their government for their financial predicament. I also almost found myself in the middle of one protest and actually witnessed another protest in Crete. I can’t imagine how frustrated the Greeks must be right now.

  3. Marco says:

    Oh no – they shouldn’t do that! Such a waste to channel that energy into something destructive while they can do something good with it.

  4. aristotelis says:

    when you say ”outisde Keramikos” you mean the underground station?

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