Portugal is beautiful. There are buildings with walls that you’d expect to see paint on that have been tiled over. Can you imagine that? Think of the tiles you have in your bathroom and picture building facades covered in them. That’s Lisbon.
Then imagine small square blocks used to cover the ground of the city. This aspect alone should make you wonder how much work actually went into decorating the city — a lot!
Portuguese cities like Faro, Lagoa, and Albuergia are not pretentious like Los Angeles, but with all the great beaches, clean streets, and pretty women it has every right to be.
There is this undercurrent though. It is evident where ever you go. The youth have made their mark on the countryside. Scrawled across walls are the words Bean, BliBlu, and my favorite and possibly the most ubiquitous — WASP.
I will have to admit I was slightly intimidated upon first seeing the word ‘WASP’ scrawled over the walls of the city because to me this term only means ‘White Anglo Saxon Protestant’ or ‘a bigger angrier version of a bee.’ In either case, I would not want to be on the receiving end of either’s wrath.
What’s the story behind WASP? Who is doing it? Why? When did they begin … end?
I have no answers to these questions. And I made little attempt to discover these answers as I was more concerned with enjoying my time in this part of the world, e.g., visiting beaches, snapping photos of historic landmarks, etc. The language barrier also prevented me from easily ascertaining anything from the public. But, the questions still lingered.
One photo that I snapped may shed some light on my quandary, however. In it, the familiar word ‘WASP’ is spelled with a ‘double s.’ This aberration makes me wonder if it WASP is a contraction or reduction of the colloquial salutation ‘What’s Up?’ If it is, then my original paranoia and apprehension were both unnecessary.
If I am correct, then it is more a playful interaction between the author/graffiti artist and the public. Everywhere he had been and everywhere the public goes there may be an interaction. In all those cases it is a moment for the public to acknowledge WASP and respond with a requisite ‘what’s up?’
However, I imagine the interaction most of the public has with WASP if they even notice or pay attention to it as I have, is one of annoyance. Graffiti doesn’t have the best public relations campaign anywhere in the world. Once walls are ‘hit up’ by taggers or graffiti artists, it is often countered by swift action by business owners or some governing body who doesn’t see the value in the colorful expressions, and wants to clean up the community. As I witnessed firsthand, some of the graffiti had been covered up, but the vast majority has not. It’s very noticeable.
The fact that graffiti hasn’t totally been painted over makes me wonder if it is a matter of lacking resources or if the government and business owners have reached a truce in a war of attrition against graffiti artists. I say that because so much of the city has been “hit up” and it appears that nothing is being done about it.
The ubiquitous nature of WASP tags reminds me of the late 1980s or early 1990s when CHAKA tags were plastered across the city of Los Angeles.
Curious to see how it’s done? Watch this video.