I found this quote while I was visiting Berlin with my partner (the 18th to the 21st of Feb). For those who have ever been to Berlin, you will understand what a graffiti city is all about. What surprised me about much of the graffiti was that much of it was art. In high school, one of my favourite subjects was art and often we discussed topics such as postmodern art: ‘What is art, really?’. Graffiti has always been one of those interesting topics in regards to art. I don’t think EVERYTHING is inherently skillful art, even if everything is ‘art’. Therefore in my opinion, there was a lot of nasty graffiti that only tarnished the beautiful landscape of Berlin. And trust me, there was a lot.
What fascinated me was while there was ‘ordinary’ graffiti, there were also outstanding graffiti artworks in every corner of the city. For those who have been to the Berlin Wall, understand the beauty of the paintings that have decorated it. Profound statements about oppression litter the streets in the form of words or images. (A quick history lesson: Berlin was split into East [Soviet, Communism] and West [Capitalist, Democracy] from when WWII finished [the 40s]. The wall was built in 1961 and was only torn down in 1992! The East side was heavily controlled and socially oppressed. Extra info.).
I found this quote: “It’s better to be a lion for a day, than a sheep all your life,” along a random street in Berlin. Our cameras had run out of battery for the day but I couldn’t help but murmur the words as I walked by. I wanted to remember them. They sunk deep and not only because of their significance in a city that had been split for so many years, but because these words of courage are true universally.
It’s a quote that can be interpreted in many ways. One could take a darker interpretation, one that emphasis our dog-eat-dog world. Be the predator, or die as the prey. I didn’t see it like that. I saw it as statement against conformity, don’t just follow the crowd. Stay true to your values and fight for them.
Suddenly, the cogs in my mind were turning. What character could say these words? What story can I conjure revolving around this quote? I haven’t quite solved this conundrum yet. I think I will weave it into my existing crime story but…I had to honour the quote in another way. I created the above graphic to hopefully promote people spreading its complex message.
This is how I interpreted it. Be courageous, speak out, make things happen. Be strong. Be ferocious. Actively create the world you wish to live in.
Does this quote speak to you? How do you interpret it? Would one of your characters say these words, and in what situation? Has a piece of city graffiti touched your heart like this one did for me?
– Ermisenda Alvarez
Some photos of Berlin graffiti and the wall for those interested: