Imagine a wall so thick with graffiti that you have to work hard picking through the kaleidoscopic layers to identify individual slogans and motifs. Imagine a place where it is de rigueur to take pen or paint to hand and leave your mark. So it is with the John Lennon Wall in Prague. After his death in December 1980 Lennon became the symbol of pacifism for many, including here for the youth of Prague where western pop music was banned. At the risk of imprisonment for “subversive activities against the state” Lennon’s image was painted, along with political graffiti, on this long plain wall tucked away in a secluded corner close to the heart of the city. Despite repeated coats of whitewash fresh messages appeared within days. Cameras were installed and guards posted but still the graffiti appeared: and so the Wall became a political focus for young activists. More than a memorial, it came to represent the ideals of free speech and non-violent rebellion against the regime (who it is claimed, somewhat ironically, labelled this movement as ‘Lennonism’). Imagine something so potently rebellious being diluted to the point of triviality. Imagine such history obscured by banal frivolity. So it is with the John Lennon Wall.With the 1989 downfall of the regime there came an increase in tourism and the ease for anyone to add their scrawl. Although still there, the political graffiti and messages of peace are now overwhelmed by inconsequential daubs and puerile versions of “I was here’. In contrast to the careless, casual ‘tagging’ now, imagine the courage it once took to defy the regime with this simple act of self expression. Imagine ….
(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)