I must admit that I find almost all graffiti to be terribly ugly. Usually its presence defaces whatever building or wall it is written on too. Nonetheless, I take great stock in the graffiti that I see in my daily journeys around the city because it serves as a kind of people’s bulletin board, an “offline internet” where controversial messages can be displayed.
I also enjoy “collecting” all of the Sanskrit words that I find here in Unicorn City, strange for me because I know just how little influence Hindu or Buddhist thought has in this country. For example, there is a Shanti beauty salon in Cluj but do the owners know that the name means “inner peace”? And do the customers know or care? Or did it just sound nice when they were coming up with a name?
Likewise here in town you can find both a restaurant and teahouse named Samsara, specializing in vegetarian and raw foods. It definitely has that hippy, “tantric” kind of vibe so I bet the owners know the Sanskrit origins of the word, meaning reincarnation. But in a deeply Christian Orthodox society, which definitely believes the idea of reincarnation is heresy, how many of the customers know the meaning of the name?
Honestly, I took the photograph that you see above (near Turnul Croitorilor) because it startled me and made me laugh. On one hand, namaste is a deeply spiritual word, used as a common greeting (equivalent to “hello” or “buna ziua”) but with the connotation that both I and you are part of the “godhead” and we are recognizing our fellow divinity. Again, deeply anathema to Orthodox Christian teaching so I have to wonder who among my fellow Cluj citizens knows the word well enough to spraypaint it on a wall.
The kicker of course is the highly offensive “bitch” tacked there on the end, which makes it either a form of edgy comedy or else pushes it over the line into the “deeply offensive” category. Again though, I remain very curious as to who would have the insight into joining an extremely respectful word with an extremely offensive one and then take the time to spray it on a public wall.
Alas, the very strength of graffiti is precisely its anonymity, so it’s likely I’ll never know. But it does my heart good to know that there are mental subversives out there thinking and saying things that are far outside mainstream thought.
Lately I’ve seen several “Jos Capitalismul!” (down with capitalism) graffitis spread over town and this in a country where the pursuit of enriching yourself (monetarily) and shopping for brand-name designer clothes at the mall is considered a nearly sacred activity.
To the anonymous public artists of Cluj, whoever you are, I salute you.