Above at Jewel City

Above sent over some info about his latest mural, a huge wall of text in Johannesburg at the diamond-trading hub Jewel City. Here’s how Above explains the piece:

Africa has had a devastating history of blood diamond wars. Blood diamond refers to a diamond mined in a war zone and then sold to finance an invading army’s war efforts, usually in Africa where more than two-thirds of the worlds diamonds are extracted. This site specific social / political word play was painted on the exterior wall of Johannesburg’s largest diamond trader Jewel City.  Jewel City is a six-block mega-precinct that serves as a base for some 300 diamond traders as well as South Africa’s Diamond Board and State Traders Association. Jewel City is the largest diamond exporter in the southern hemisphere with over R7-Billion worth of Diamonds being exported every year.

I was able to get away with this diamond wall heist because I told the owners I would paint in big letters “Diamonds are a woman’s best friend” on the exterior of their building.  The owners loved the idea and all quickly agreed. The next day I had started painting but what the owners didn’t know is that I lied to them and was hijacking their wall. Like any premeditated robbery, situations are not what they seem and shit can flip from best friends to worst enemies in a few moments.

I assume the owners were too busy trading diamonds inside the mega centre they never took the time to come out and see I was painting a controversial word play about the diamond trade and how it’s fueled so much bloodshed in wars making it one of man’s worst enemies.

See the rest of the piece, as well as some of my thoughts as to why it might be problematic, after the jump…

Alright, that’s sabotage. But I’m not sure that Above’s point is clear. The way I read that message has nothing to do with blood diamonds. Instead, I read it as complaining from the perspective of a man whose partner is pressuring him into purchasing a big engagement ring that he doesn’t want to buy or cannot afford for her. By having “a man’s” rather than just “man’s,” the way I’m reading the piece is as a whiny line about an over-advertised luxury good rather than a comment on the evils that are committed to other people for the sake of diamonds.

Maybe I’m being harsh though. After all, however exactly it reads, Above put an anti-diamond message on one of the world’s most important buildings for diamond exportation, and that’s something.

PS, I wrote this post on the 10th, but decided to wait and publish it on the 12th. In the mean time, Hrag Vartanian posted a similar article about ABOVE’s grammatical misstep, saying that the mural unintentionally “reinforces a stereotype that suggests men are paying for diamonds for women who can’t wait to get their hands on them.”

Photos by Above