Graffiti refers to illicit writing or drawings often found on building walls or other surfaces in public places. Graffiti have existed from time in memorial especially in Ancient Greece, Ancient Roman Empire, and Ancient Egypt. While Graffiti (singular – graffito) were illicitly painted, scribbled or scratched on surfaces in ancient times, marker pens, spray paint and paint generally are the common graffiti materials being used in this modern era. Graffiti have been used to express a number underlying messages especially, artistic expressions, social and political messages. Graffiti have also been adopted into musical culture especially hip hop where it is considered as one of the four elements for generating creative musical expressions along with b-boying, emceeing, and DJing. The influences of graffiti in this modern era include the following:
Graffiti writers and artists often use graffiti to express their political opinions freely without any fear of backlash since they largely operate as anonymous individuals. When writers/artists use graffiti for political purposes, they either express their motives in word or in form of a slogan or image. The oppressed in the society may use graffiti as political movements for the promotion of their opinions and to gain popularity or sympathy for their movements.
Artists such as Fafi use graffiti under anonymity to gain recognition and popularity in the society. These artists paint, scribble or scratch personal signatures, tags or any type of features that distinguishes them from others on walls especially in public places to create awareness, fame and popularity for themselves from those who view their work of art.
Artists have used graffiti under anonymity purely for offering support, encouragement, and positive messages to viewers or readers of their messages. Those who use graffiti for a culture of generosity do not gain any monetary value from their work but help the society as a whole to enjoy their work of art.
While gangs of writers and painters see graffito as a means of communication whether for political, social or religious purposes, government authorities and most people often see their writing and works of art as anti-social or a form of rebellion since they claim that graffiti fails the test of social convention. Writers and artists often use graffiti as a secret code for their gang members or people in their sub-groups. Companies such as IBM (in 2001) and Sony (in 2005) have used graffiti for ad campaigns though in the case of IBM, a fine was imposed on the company by the authority for defacing sidewalks with spray-painting but Sony launched their ad campaign successfully because the consent of the owners of the buildings they used was sought and obtained and payments were also made to secure the buildings for graffiti.