Banksy leaves poignant tributes in Paris

Banksy's mural of a mourning woman on an emergency escape door to the Bataclan, the music venue where 89 people were shot dead by militants in November 2015.
Banksy's mural of a mourning woman on an emergency escape door to the Bataclan, the music venue where 89 people were shot dead by militants in November 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

The graffiti artist's murals remember the May 1968 uprisings and 2015 Bataclan shooting and tackle issues such as poverty and migration

PARIS • French capital Paris has a new draw, after British graffiti artist Banksy, known for his politically charged sketches on walls, painted a series of murals sparking debate among residents and tourists.

The satirical images, tackling issues such as migration and poverty, began popping up late last month.

The secretive artist has since posted photographs of them on his Instagram account and added comments, confirming his authorship.

One mural, on a street in northern Paris where migrants often sleep rough, shows a black girl spray-painting pink wallpaper over a swastika.

The painting has since been defaced to make it look like she is drawing the swastika herself.

Others depict rats, a common Banksy motif, including one flying through the air on the back of a champagne cork, and a pair walking under a parasol near the Eiffel Tower.

One of the most provocative, painted near the Sorbonne, on the trendy Left Bank, shows a stern man with a hand-saw hidden behind his back offering a bone to a pleading dog that has had part of its front leg sawn off.

A passer-by, who wanted to be known only as Vincent and said he was linked to an art foundation in Paris, stopped to take a picture as he headed for lunch.

"This painting is of an unspeakable cruelty, which is representative of the times in which we live, times of wantonness," said the 49-year-old.

"The man's stare is empty and cold, while the dog is weak and full of humanity. I think it is a clear representation of the European context and the migration crisis."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 uprisings, when French students and unionists mounted violent protests across Paris and its surroundings, bringing much of the country to a standstill for weeks.

Referencing the anniversary, Banksy painted a picture of a rat holding a stencil pen and wearing a bandanna over its face on the side of a building near the Centre Pompidou.

Another shows a rat dressed as Minnie Mouse perched on the numbers 1968.

While two of the nine murals have been defaced, most of the others have been covered by plexiglass to protect them.

Banksy concluded his series with a mural on an emergency escape door to the Bataclan, the music venue where 89 people were shot dead by Islamist militants in November 2015.

The image depicts a woman in mourning, wearing what looks like a hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women, although the picture also has echoes of Mother Teresa.

"This one is my favourite," said an American tourist.

"I can feel that her sadness is deep and palpable."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2018, with the headline 'Banksy leaves poignant tributes in Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe