We walk through the admittedly downtrodden pathways of a void parking lot in a nondescript urban background situated within the side roads of downtown Kuwait City. It’s a twist and turn of somber dreariness, illuminated by surprising pops of color, courtesy of the graffiti spray painted on by “Mo” Monstariam and his supporting crews. Amidst my fascination, my trance is interrupted by Mo calling out in his baritone “watch your step – that’s human feces right there on the ground.”
Welcome to Kuwait’s Graffiti scene: an underground haven where some of the greatest local artists have graced the walls with their cans of spray paint. These modern-day Michaelangelos tend to spend their weekends and hours outside of work creating masterpieces together.
Our guide and guru du jour, Monstariam, is renowned as one of the most respected artists in the scene. Known for both his own work and collaborations, he also fancies himself an honorary member of the KUZ crew, and SKC family. And so, we’re quite honored that he had agreed to give us a tutorial, allowing us a glimpse into the day of a life of a graffiti artist for a very special edition of bazaar Tries. But first, like any good host, he gives us a tour of his home, showing us recent and older works done by himself and his fellow artists along the way.
“People love that we’ve basically turned this place into an art gallery,” he tells us as I cautiously look around, trying to avoid stepping on shards of broken glass, defecation, or errant illicit paraphernalia. Dust caked cars with makeshift graffiti strewn around the abandoned parking lot [“I love when people use their surroundings to make art”, he tells me to ease the look of horror in my face.]
Obscure sayings like “Y so serious” litter the walls which promptly causes him to roll his eyes at hoodlums who are trying to jeopardize the graffiti crews’ peaceful practices. “We really don’t like to cause any trouble. We’re respectful when we’re here, we only come during the daytime, and we just want to make art. Nothing else.”
As we continue our walk down the somber alleys, Mo points out different talents who have made their mark on the walls. Akin to listing off Santa’s reindeer, there’s Blitz, [whom Mo calls “one of the biggest budding talents” at the tender age of 16.] Bo50, one of Mo’s most respected artists, and other favorites from the crew: the newly-adopted Boris, SAQ, MNK, Bastaki and more.
But now it’s our turn! Mo leads us to his car to pick up a couple of cans of spray paint. He pops the trunk, revealing what looks like at least 100 different colors to choose from. I select teal, green and purple, and oblige to walking up 7 flights of stairs in order to gain “the full experience”. Huffing and puffing along the way, I keep wondering: How will bazaar make its mark in this art movement?
It turns out that bazaar’s mark was an ugly one, but Mo was nonetheless supportive. Watching him transform his can into a pen, pencil or marker of sorts onto his canvas (i.e: the wall) was so mesmerizing, it gave me the boost of confidence I needed to start my masterpiece. Then, before I knew it, my determination was compromised as I tried to imitate his swift movements, and promptly failed, leaving a huge, ugly gray streak on the wall. However, a couple of strokes later, I believed myself to get the hang of it. I drew a tree.
I drew an ugly leaf that I managed to convince everyone was a koi fish. My comrade drew a hilarious bird, and of course, Mo prettied up the whole thing as best as he could – until of course I started branding it by signing my name all over the thing.
The overall experience, however, had me feeling like a bad mama jamma – even though we were doing this in an abandoned room that was littered with broken CDs, dust-bunny cushions, and undoubtedly lice. I can’t truthfully say that I’ll be finding myself joining the graffiti art movement anytime soon, however, and judging by my artwork, they’ll be happy to know that. I’ll leave creating the bright beauties to Monstariam and the KUZ crew.