By Eleni Philippou
Baffled by the prevailing Buffer Zone divide, creative NGO Urban Gorillas, have collaborated with street artist Twenty Three to paint the walls of the capital.
The project falls under the Urban Spectacle series, where Urban Gorillas collaborate with various artists and creative groups in public interventions that aim to challenge citizens’ stereotyped ways of seeing, spurring them to interact not only with one another, but also with their urban public spaces.
Graffiti artist, Twenty Three, has been bringing colour to the walls of Cyprus for many years now, and his work is driven by socio-cultural contexts. This time, together with Urban Gorillas, he tackled the line segregating the island’s two communities, unlocking another platform for discussion.
As territorial maps were being tabled in Geneva by President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, on January 12th, Twenty Three hit the streets along the Green Line and created one mural across two separate walls.
With a backpack full of spray paint and stencils, the artist marked a wall in the Greek Cypriot community and one in the Turkish Cypriot community, on either side of the Green Line. The idea being that, in order to view the mural unbrokenly – since each half appears only on one side, in an unfinished frame – the observer must walk through the Buffer Zone to reach the missing part.
“The mural is a call to re-think the unknown side of Nicosia,” adds Twenty Three, with viewers thus encouraged to transcend the island’s partition.
Elaborating on the inspiration behind the ‘Baffle Zone’ project, the street artist said: “I was always wondering about the detachment of young Cypriots regarding the existence of the other side, and the lack of desire to meet the other space”.
As street art is slowly becoming more and more prevalent in wider society, on a global and local scale, graffiti has been moving away from its associations with vandalism and towards providing inspiration and motivating reflection.
With this shift in perception, street artists have been undertaking social and political issues, opening up a conversation within society.
Thus, the ‘Baffle Zone’ mural only functions in a space that is explored, lost and found. A work of art that, once pieced together, poses a visual riddle, continuing the journey that the project proposes, in parallel to the island’s journey yet to be written.
Twenty Three’s work can be found island-wide, in both cities and villages, always carrying his numerical signature.
As part of the collaboration with him, Urban Gorillas followed the mural’s path across the capital and video-documented the wall stamps. The resulting short film will be displayed at Maxxi museum in Rome throughout February and March during an exhibition showcasing Urban Gorillas’ work so far.