Why Jesus doesn't like art… or want Zimbabwe freed.

Graffiti is and always has been a part of society… go read up about it. We’re talking thousands of years… even before Jesus.

Now obviously my title is rather exaggerated and designed for the express purpose of increasing my readership, but the thing is, I really am starting to get pissed off at those “Jesus Saves” people walking around painting over what they deem inappropriate.

First there was the international graffiti competition held in Cape Town where some of worlds best contemporary artists painted f-ing amazing murals on walls that made you want to stop your car and take a deep breath. 2 days later the Jesus Saves people painted that incredible wall full of art work grey. Not white, grey.

I was willing to tolerate that since graffiti is supposedly against the law… never mind the fact that supposedly these guys got permission from the owner of the wall.

Then there was “FREE ZIM!“, a piece of artwork so poignant and powerful that it made me seek it out and photograph it. It said everything that needed to be said and was a constant, daily, reminder to thousands of Capetonians of exactly what had to happen in Zimbabwe. It was also beautiful, with stencilled birds taking flight reminding me of the phoenix to our north.

Then in the height of the xenophobic attacks against Zimbabweans (and other foreigners) the “Jesus Saves” crew painted over it in a dull grey that angers me intensely every time I drive past.

Which leaves me to say, like some graffiti artists mural’d on a nearby wall: “Jesus must hate art”.

ps. For the kids out there who are going to start screaming about tagging. I am not talking about tagging. I am talking about art. Tagging is the equivalent of taking a shit on the pavement and expecting people to think you’re cool for doing it.


7 thoughts on “Why Jesus doesn't like art… or want Zimbabwe freed.

  1. I love graffiti/street art. What is the international competition to which you are referring?

    I was immensely saddened when they painted over the Zim mural. I also thought it was beautiful. I had wanted to photograph it but it disappeared, I think, the day after I first saw it. I’m so glad you got a shot.

    BTW, how do you know this was all the work of the Jesus Saves crew? (Which, by the way, I always understood to be an employment initiative (to pick up trash and stuff) for homeless people coordinated by some sort of religious group – ie don’t necessarily vent at the poor dudes wearing those horrific, emblazoned, bright-yellow vests.)

  2. Hi Mandy…

    I forgot the name of the competition but if you google you’ll find it.

    I live right near a wall that is constantly being used by graffiti artists and almost on a weekly basis I will see the Jesus Saves crew painting over the graffiti. The Free Zim mural is about 300m down the road and was painted over in the same grey colour that the Jesus people use. So while I don’t actually have photographic evidence of people in stupid “jesus saves” bibs physically painting over the sign it’s hardly a wild logical jump.

    (Also, I have never ever seen anyone from the municipality, or for that matter any other group, painting over graffiti in Cape Town)

  3. Close to my house, on the R44, there is a AFM church with a big neon sign at the top saying “Jesus redeems and saves”. Since I am a Christian, you’d probably expect me to say “Amen brother” and be on my merry way, but somehow I’m beginning to think it does more harm than good. The modern westerner simply has no idea what he has to be saved/redeemed from. I have no intention on discussing this issue, I merely intend to say that the statement “Jesus saves” makes no sense to most people.

    It is interesting to note that Paul (that dude in the new testament) used completely different approaches when he spoke in Athens, Corinthians and Jerusalem, that is, he adapted his style to his audience. Unfortunately, it seems, we have lost the ability to figure out how to talk to people. Painting “Jesus saves” on a wall doesn’t work. IMHO anyway.

  4. Hi Izak

    I’m glad that someone who is both a Christian and someone who’s opinion I respect chose to comment. I was waiting for the “Jesus is Lord and YOU are going to HELL for blaspheming” response. Luckily that never happened.

    It sucks that you’re choosing not to comment on the particular issue because I think your opinion is what really matters in this case. The “Jesus Saves” people are in some way, whether Christians want it or not, representing them to the non-Christian public at large. Are you choosing not to comment because you don’t have an opinion on them painting over the “FREE ZIM!” mural or because you feel your opinion will be controversial?

    On a side note I’d like to say that the work that the Straatwerk (“Jesus Saves”) people are doing seems to be generally very good. It is (in my opinion) sad that:

    a. Non religious NGO groups aren’t doing something similar. (Maybe they are and I just don’t know about it)
    b. The “Jesus Saves” crew is damaging their otherwise good reputation by getting involved in aspects of moral policing that, in my opinion, belongs in the church. Particularly they are not helping the churches (whether valid or not) public image of “do-gooders” who frown upon homosexuality, pre-marital sex, rock music and now, graffiti.

  5. Ok, let me first say that I COMPLETELY misread the post. I initially thought you were talking about those people who spray paint “Jesus saves” over grafiti, because this is something that I’ve seen and which I think is a bad thing. You’re saying that my message is good and your grafiti is bad. Since both of them are acting against the law (as far as I know), this only displays arrogance.

    I later realised you are talking about people painting large gray squarish blocks over it, while wearing clothes advertising their affiliation with a Christian group. I suspect gray is less glaringly obvious that high gloss white, which explains the choice of colour, so lets move on to whether I think this “policing” is a good or bad thing.

    I am reminded of something that CS Lewis once said, but I’ll have to paraphrase. When someone asks you what you think about nationalism (that is the believe that your nation is superior to others) you are left with a bit of a problem. If you say that you think it is a good thing, you have to remember that the Nazi regime in Germany was essentially a nationalist movement that believed they were superior to everyone else, and that was definitely bad. If you say nationalism is a bad thing, you may be construed as saying that a nation should not have any pride at all. So in any matter, you should try your utmost to give a balanced answer.

    This is what I will attempt to do in this case. I suspect that in reality we know very little about how the group in question operates. If they are acting independently and cleaning up other people’s walls, then they are applying paint over someone else’s paint without permission, and it would be a bad thing. If they are cleaning up other people’s walls with their permission, then it is probably a good thing.

    Assuming that we are talking about public spaces, ie they belong to the City of Cape Town, I suspect that the owner would want those walls cleaned up anyway. Lets assume that this group’s work is in fact sanctioned by the City of Cape Town (and I admit that I don’t actually know this, but we don’t know the opposite to be true either), then your beef should be with the municipality about 1) the colour of the paint and 2) whether artists should be allowed to paint on public spaces. Being angry with Christians in general because they happen to be the ones cleaning up only shows that you already disliked them before we even started talking about this.

    I unfortunately didn’t see the murals. I did see similar art on a wall where Klipfontein road and the M5 meets, which was incredibly good (artistically speaking), although a bit eerie in what they depicted (some form of Viking’s head, helmet and face).

    As to the situation in Zimbabwe, I think it is terrible. I agree that something should have been done. I do not necessarily agree that Mbeki is to blame though, as it seems many do. This is going off-topic but bear with me. I suspect that South Africa is doing it’s utmost not to jeopardise their relationship with Zimbabwe. This, in a sense, is a good thing. If we jeapardise that relationship, we will be in even less of a position to help.

    Any official criticism WILL jeapardise that relationship. Westerners tend to criticise too freely, while Africans usually cannot take any criticism at all.

    Any criticism that makes it into the papers in this country will also reach Mugabe. Therefore the government will level no official criticism. Ie, we are between a rock and a hard place. We have to do something, but quite frankly, we can’t.

  6. “Tagging is the equivalent of taking a shit on the pavement and expecting people to think you’re cool for doing it.”

    haha love it. Totally agree.

    I started tagging @ a young age with fellow friends in the neighborhood, we moved onto actual art on walls and what ever else we could soon after realizing the insignificance of tagging.
    Obviously preferring the specialization in the actual form of art. ie spraypainting, canvas, graffiti, thin/thick lines.

    My understanding of the wall you are talking about(near Wembley Square?) is that anyone can spray on the wall?
    If I am wrong, please let me know. As I have seen some amazing productions along that wall, only to be covered soon after, by grey.
    And as far as I know, no one can paint it(text at the top of the wall).
    This could be because it is in compliance of some sort of agreement. ie people get together, create art. take pics. Then its painted over for the next person.. and over and over.
    Clarify if u can..

    Regarding that “Free Zim”, could it not be that it was covered as it was labeled a threat?
    Im ignorant here, as I see them “Jesus Saves” people with prison tattoos, cleaning the streets etc. Is it community administered? Or what…

  7. If anyone ever ventures into obz(Observatory)… then one will see the amazing productions/pieces they have around there. Which are evidently, legal and loved by the community. Ive stopped off there and watched on many occasions.
    Its amazing art.

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