Graffiti shows itself in total freedom in Guadeloupe

A work by the graffiti artist Moksa

The 7th edition of the International Festival of Graffiti and Street Art of Guadeloupe whose theme was “Happy Culture” took place from June 28 to July 9. The Brazilian artist, Drika Chagas and the famous graffiti artist from Toulouse, Kongo were the sponsors of the event. Many other street artists from Haiti, Martinique, France and Guadeloupe were also present. One of the novelties of this year was the decentralization of the festival in several municipalities of the island.

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 OK

For some time, Guadeloupe and particularly the urban area of Pointe-à-Pitre and Les Abymes give an “official” place to graffiti. Indeed, new multi-family housing or some walls of public buildings are more and more decorated with graffiti and even with giant frescoes which are commissioned by our decision makers.

If some municipalities tend to let street artists express themselves in public space especially when it comes to nice drawings to watch, most of them still consider “tag” (handwriting) “dirty” and even “aggressive”…

We can imagine the tireless fight that had to lead during many years Martine Fazer, the organizer of the International Festival of Graffiti and Street Art of Guadeloupe, and the unfailing commitment of the graffiti artists so that this event finds its right place on the calendar of important artistic events in the country.

The 7th edition was the right one because, this year, this festival that was renamed “Léz’Arts de Rue”, was very well received by the Guadeloupean public. Some people totally discovered the existence of the festival…

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 - 3 C

Launching of the festival in 2009

“I love art, I love culture but the idea of launching this festival did not originate only with me. Dominique Mey first spoke to me about it. In 2008, this friend who works in advertising and had the opportunity to create a posters contest in Guadeloupe asked me if it would not be interesting to organize an event around graffiti. In fact, he drove everywhere in Guadeloupe with his teams to put up posters and he saw these nice graffiti. So, he asked me if I could create a festival to enhance them because I manage an event planning business,” said Martine Fazer, the director of Tropik Events Communication, which organized Léz’Arts de Rue.

The first edition of the International Festival of Graffiti and Street Art of Guadeloupe was launched in December 2009 but, unfortunately, it did not received great attention because a long general strike had just ended… A graffiti contest was held on the Place de la Victoire in Pointe-à-Pitre with the participation of twenty or so graffiti artists. They had to create a fresco from a single theme. There was also dance with Hip Hop Sessions.

As from the second edition, the festival began to expand because, in addition to the graffiti competition, the graffiti artists made frescoes in the city of Pointe-à-Pitre. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti were the invited Caribbean islands.

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 - 13 D

Sharing with other cultures

This 7th edition of the International Festival of Graffiti and Street Art of Guadeloupe was held in the presence of many guest street artists, some of them are internationally renowned: the Brazilian Drika Chagas and the French-Vietnamese Kongo (patrons of the festival) ; Denis Maksaens and the Basquiat Collective from Haiti; Steeven Caupenne and Jonathan Péraste from Martinique; Moksa, Doudou’Style, Emmanuel Odorico and Osagé from France…

“Our desire to open this festival by inviting graffiti artists from other countries is essential for us. Art allows us to feed on knowledge, to share other cultures. Graffiti artists meet and share something about their environment, their education, their technique, their favorite colors, etc. (…) This year, we were fortunate enough to have with us Kongo, who is now world renowned, and for five days (he could not stay longer because he is in great demand), he shared his experiences, his art with us and provided valuable advice to young graffiti artists,” said Martine Fazer.

The event began on June 28 at the Pavillon de la Ville in Pointe-à-Pitre with an exhibition entitled “Graffiti’aw” with some works by Drika Chagas, Ronald Cyrille nicknamed Black Bird, Doudou’Style, Moksa, Pacman, K. Narcisse, Mash, Osons… “It is an exhibition of artists and not a trade show with a lot of paintings,” said Martine Fazer.

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 - 10 E

Graffiti, a contemporary art

Then, the artistic event was decentralized in six municipalities of the island: Saint-Claude, Le Moule, Sainte-Anne, Le Gosier, Sainte-Rose, Les Abymes.

Martine Frazer and the collective of twenty or so Guadeloupean graffiti artists were able to find the right words in order to convince the mayors to accept the festival on their territory. It must be said that just a few years ago, the town halls complained of these “wild” tags and drawings and said they devoted a significant budget to erase them.

“We explained to them that graffiti is a contemporary street art, the graffiti artists of the collective are emerging or renowned artists who have know-how, technique, artistic knowledge among others, in brief that our organization came with an engineering. We asked them to provide us walls and contribute to the purchase of spray paint cans which are expensive. We also talked with them about the drawings they would like to see on the walls. Everything was done so that the communes take ownership of the project and the feedback was positive,” said the organizer of the festival.

During these visits in the communes which took place from June 29 to July 6, there were workshops, meetings with artists, slam, hip hop dance, graffiti with normal size but also giant frescoes in particular in Sainte-Anne and Les Abymes.

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 - 22 F

An enthusiastic audience

“Everywhere we went in Guadeloupe, we were made welcome by the people. Young people, adults, families, the elderly (in particular those who live in the Cadenet Residence in Le Moule), sometimes with their chairs, came spontaneously to attend the performances of the artists. Some commented on the works, others were ecstatic and repeated in Creole “sa bèl menm!” (it is really beautiful!) or “sa pli bèl ki avan!” (it is more beautiful than before!) because these graffiti embellished their district.

In Sainte-Rose, an inhabitant said she agreed with the Mayoress for authorizing these graffiti in the town… In Pointe-à-Pitre, people stopped their cars to take pictures of the artists who were painting and their works”, told the director of Tropik Events Communication.

Indeed, on Saturday July 8, street artists invaded the city of Pointe-à-Pitre in order to paint many graffiti during a “Nomadic Performance” which created gatherings of art lovers and neophytes who watched every move they made until nightfall.

In addition, a leaflet with a map of the city and the twelve places where graffiti would be drawn were distributed before to the public to enable it to follow this creative course about street art and discover the city in a playful manner. These sites include the Town hall Square, Barbès Street, the cruise terminal, the Central market Square, the corner of Nozières and Gambetta streets, Lamartine street, the corner of General Ruiller and Victor Hugues streets, Duplessis street, the Pavillon de la Ville etc.

Festival Graffiti & Street Art Gpe 2017 - 12 G

Many contacts around the world

A guide of the city helped the organization of the festival for the choice of sites to be highlighted by graffiti, so Léz’Arts de Rue does not exclude the idea of proposing to the municipality of Pointe-à-Pitre to include this new artistic itinerary in its tourist tour…

It should be noted that during the festival, video projections also took place with the video artist Denis Maksaens and the photographer Philippe Virapin.

The high point of this 7th edition of the International Festival of Graffiti and Street Art of Guadeloupe was the graffiti competition on the Place de la Victoire on Sunday July 9 with the participation of a dozen graffiti artists from Haiti, Martinique, France, Guadeloupe…

There is no shortage of projects to further develop this event, to promote street art and Guadeloupean graffiti artists. “We want to export our artists. We are planning to send one or two of them to Haiti in an artists’ residences. We will also participate in Haiti Graffiti Festival. We made many contacts abroad in particular in Sao Paolo (Brazil) where there is an active and prolific breeding ground for street artists, in Mexico, Belgium and Spain. Spanish artist Necko will certainly be one of the festival’s guests next year,” said Martine Fazer.

For the moment, she plans to organize “small” events such as meetings during the year that will announce the festival.