Culture Weekly

Tag team for tolerance

November 30 - December 6 , 2022
Gulf Weekly Tag team for tolerance
Gulf Weekly Tag team for tolerance
Gulf Weekly Tag team for tolerance
Gulf Weekly Tag team for tolerance
Gulf Weekly Tag team for tolerance

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

AEROSOL artists from the US will be touching down in the kingdom next month to share their spray-painting skills with aspiring creatives as part of a cross-cultural exchange, that will result in the creation of a mural celebrating Bahrain’s 51st National Day.

The week-long programme for graffiti and mural artists aged 18 to 25, is being provided by an American initiative called Next Level that promotes understanding and supports the professional development of artists in local communities. It will be held from December 4 to 8.

The collaboration was brought forth by the US Embassy in Manama and the Youth Ministry, through the initiative of the US Department of State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Meridian International Centre.

“The programme’s mission is to use hip-hop, dance and art to foster cross-cultural creative exchange in diverse communities,” said David Whitted, the US Embassy’s deputy public affairs officer. “This programme is designed to support the Abraham Accords, as Next Level intends to conduct the Aerosol Residency in the UAE and Bahrain under the theme of tolerance.”

Next Level has organised successful exchanges since 2014 in more than 40 countries across six continents, as well as US residencies for artists from those international programmes.

The artists, Mast, Asend and Chino, are thrilled to visit Bahrain for the first time. They hope to share their love for the art form with local creatives, who could benefit from the trio’s extensive expertise.

Chino, whose real name is David Villorente, became interested in graffiti around the time he was 11 as it was a part of the fabric of New York City in the 70s and 80s, where he grew up.

“The mystique, energy, stylish signatures, intriguing pseudonyms and colourful murals all played a role in my early fascination,” he said. “When you find your passion, you find your purpose. Something I fell in love with as a child has taken me around the world, and provided me with a lifetime of wonderful memories and amazing opportunities.”

Asend, a graffiti/mural artist for around 25 years from Chicago, was inspired by the styles of lettering completely different from any other art form he had seen before. “The unique colours applied with aerosol in such a masterful manner inspired me to explore this art form,” he said. “What started as a hobby evolved into a full-time creative career.”

He added that ‘the subway art movement that started in New York City in the 70s spread to Chicago by the early 80s, and inspired a global movement with many cities throughout the world developing their own styles by the 90s.”

He credits the Chicago graffiti scene, publications like Subway Art and The Source Magazine spreads by Chino for being his first introduction to graffiti prior to the Internet. 

He was also inspired by the Renaissance and Baroque movements for the advancement of art as a conglomerate. 

Mast, a Brooklyn graffiti artist for the past 30 years, loved that the art form coloured areas outside the societal lines.

“You had to search for it behind buildings, over fences and under bridges,” he said. “The more energy you put into searching for it and learning about it, the more it slowly revealed itself. The original artwork and styles I first encountered as a kid still get me excited. That, paired with my ability to pull ideas from hip-hop and modern day culture, provides ample inspiration for my work. Being a graffiti artist and mural painter gives me a graphic, illustrated and vibrant voice for self-expression. It’s something that I’m extremely passionate about. I hope to pass on my enjoyment and love for the culture to others.”

The team is all excited to pass on their knowledge to programme participants.

“Local and aspiring artists will learn a little more about aerosol art, its evolution and future,” said Chino about the workshops. “Depending on their level of experience, they will also learn the fundamentals of mural painting, technique and application.

“Mast, Asend and I will share our personal experiences from our creative journeys. We hope to inspire a younger generation of artists and provide the insights and tools that could make them more efficient in their creative endeavours.

“The theme of the collaborative mural will explore and convey tolerance, as well as celebrate Bahrain’s National Day, which is a great honour for us all.”

Asend added that ‘the programme will create a positive impact on the youth by nurturing their talents and educating them on important issues such as conflict resolution’. 

“Art is a universal language that transcends all cultural barriers,” he added. “One of the biggest impacts graffiti has had on my life is the ability to relate to people from all walks of life. I am humbled to work with Chino and Mast in Next Level’s first Aerosol Edition and with everyone involved in this project - from the organisers to the participants. I hope to share and learn as much as possible on this trip.”

The programme will end with the creation of a mural at a location chosen by the Ministry. It will not only convey the message of tolerance, but also celebrate the kingdom’s National Day anniversary.

For details, follow @mysbhr, @usembassybahrain, @next_level_usa, @meridianintl and @exchangeourworld on Instagram.

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