“Abandoned Canvas” by Majaliwa Mzombwe and Naithon Henning

About the Artist – A Note from Majaliwa:

Abandoned Canvas: Painting on Birmingham’s Margins is a film focused on Birmingham’s graffiti scene. There is no factual evidence as to when the graffiti began here in Birmingham. Most just assume that as the city was built the graffiti came with it. Like most movements it did have its ups and downs. The community, we spoke with, recall how within the 80’s-90’s graffiti was thriving but regrettably inform us today it is hanging by a few strong threads. One of the troubles the graffiti writers find themselves continuously fighting is the stereotype that graffiti is vandalism therefore is done by gang members or troublesome youth. This film was created with the intent to destroy the negative stereotypes stuck to graffiti and express that it is an art form used to beautify the abandoned spaces Birmingham is abundant of. I invite you to watch this film, but urge you to watch with an open mind and use the information we give to help you create your views of graffiti.

Making this film turned out to be much more challenging than I could have expected. The eight minutes that appear on screen do not do justice to the amount of work that is involved in its production. At the beginning of the semester, Naithon and I naively thought that making a movie about graffiti in Birmingham was going to be an easy affair. We would simply hang out near an abandoned wall and interview the people who showed up. We soon realized that the criminal aspect of graffiti writing would make our community almost impossible to contact. For much of the semester, the best we could do was a couple shots of 2nd Ave. South and the fading graffiti there.
However, we soon broke into our stride. The week before spring break came our biggest lead as we came into contact with Daze, the most prolific graffiti writer in town. Once we got in touch with him, contacting the graffiti community far easier. On two occasions, Daze interrupted the interview to ask if another graffiti writer could join us. In this way we met Moist, a writer I had been a fan of, and Rek, an older established writer in town. In addition to the contacts Daze provided, our interview with Rashid Quandil solidified the movie. Rashid turned out to be fluent in everything graffiti and was an eloquent advocate for this marginalized style of art.
As we edited the movie several things became clear. It became apparent just how comfortable certain people were in front of the camera compared to others. Some like Daze had spoken on camera before and were completely natural. Others, like the CAPs employees became somewhat reserved and acted in a more business like manner. In addition, the editing process became a balancing act between the two communities we showcased. The movie essentially presents the conflict between those who appreciate graffiti and those who pay others to take it down. Many statements by the graffiti artist had to be removed because they mocked CAPs a little too harshly. Rather than take a one-sided approach to the film, we aimed to present the CAP’s arguments against graffiti in a fair manner.

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