Graffiti activists in Berlin turn Nazi symbols into art

Transforming hate into street art, Ibo Omari has an answer for hate.

By REUTERS
January 14, 2018 09:50
2 minute read.
Graffiti activists in Berlin turn Nazi symbols into art

Graffiti artist Ibo Omari poses for a portrait in his shop in Berlin, Germany August 18, 2017. . (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

BERLIN  - Horrified at the sight of swastikas scrawled on walls, children’s playgrounds and building sites, a group of graffiti artists in Berlin is transforming the Nazi symbols into colorful artwork such as flowers, cars and animals.


The swastika, which was adopted by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, is banned in Germany, where right-wing sentiment has risen due to an influx of more than a million migrants in the last two years.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Ibo Omari, who runs a graffiti shop and ‘The Cultural Heirs’ youth club, encourages young people to look out for swastikas in their local area and then creatively paint over them - after getting permission from whoever owns the defaced property.

“It was important to spur young people into action and to encourage them to take responsibility so they don’t just ignorantly walk past such symbols of hatred,” Omari told Reuters. “It offends the whole neighborhood if someone in our midst paints swastikas in a children’s playground and I take it personally,” the 37-year-old said, adding that they also wanted to show graffiti had nothing to do with racism.

Omari and ‘The Cultural Heirs’ decided the best way to respond was “with humor and love” so they came up with designs such as rabbits, birds and a Rubik’s Cube to cover swastikas. Sketching potential designs during a graffiti workshop in Omari’s shop, 16-year-old Philip Keilholz said he got involved as racism had no place in the cosmopolitan German capital.

“When tourists come to Berlin and look at a wall and see a swastika, they’ll think: ‘What’s going on here? There are Nazis everywhere!’ And we don’t want that,” he said. “An artistic symbol obviously looks much nicer than an ugly message and then people walk through the city with a smile on their faces,” he added.

The group has already transformed around 25 swastikas and their ‘PaintBack’ initiative has been copied by people in other cities including Hamburg, Kiel and Bremen. Omari was shocked into starting the project in 2015 when a man came into his shop to get some cans of spray paint to cover a swastika in a park where he had been playing with his son.



Two weeks later Omari heard about swastikas painted in a skate park. “I felt like I was in the wrong film,” said Omari. “There has been a shift towards the right in Germany and not just in Germany but in Europe overall ... so it’s important to nail your colors to the mast.”

Related Content

Congress
August 16, 2018
Congressional candidate who called Israel ‘apartheid regime,’ wins primary

By RON KAMPEAS/JTA