Political street art with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie is appearing in Shoreditch, expressing solidarity with satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was attacked in Paris earlier this month.
Artists expressed a range of political statements attached to the hashtag, including freedom of expression, racism, and gun control.
Among them is the artist who goes by the name Pure Evil, who frequently expresses political protests in his work. Pure Evil created a graffiti piece last week in Holywell Lane, Shoreditch with the text “Crayons are mightier than bullets” and the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag.
Graffiti Life, a commercial art group, expressed its anti-gun statements with the same hashtag.
Elsewhere, an anonymous black and white Shoreditch graffiti appeared with the phrase “Islam is not the problem”.
— Rachel Belward (@RBel2) enero 11, 2015
The most captivating piece is on Sclater Street where passers-by are stopped by a giant “Je Suis Charlie” painted in metallic chrome with a thick black outline. Next to it is a hand holding a pencil gesturing to “freedom of speech”. It was the first to arise with the hashtag on the night of the attack in Paris.
Henry Buckle, graffiti artist and director of Outside Art, said the artists who produced the large chrome piece were determined to put it up in time and worked through the night despite the heavy rain.
He went on to say: “I checked it recently on twitter and found out that it had over 60,000 shares which is just amazing”.
David Stuart is a graffiti enthusiast and blogger who runs Shoreditch Street Art Tours. Stuart said that he has seen up to six graffiti pieces produced with the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag within the last three days.
To Stuart, street art is an important medium of political expression because, he says, graffiti uses a local medium – such as Shoreditch walls – to reach a much wider audience who walk past it, photograph it, then disburse it on their social media channels to the wider world.
Stuart said: “Street art does give people a great opportunity to express political opinions and we do see a bit of that. There is also a lot of street art that is not about making a statement. There is a lot of street art that is non-political but politicised street art is explicitly political.”
“And it’s not just UK issues. A number of stencil arts came up last year about the political situation in Turkey against the Prime Minister and the heavy hand of the state troops oppressing the people. One issue that has crept in a number of times is Palestine. It came into the street art in the summer for a period of time as well. So the “Ju Suis Charlie” is a manifestation of that, of the artist’s sentiment to express political opinions.”