A mural by the French street artist Combo in Paris has become the target of far-right vandals, including one nationalist blogger who filmed herself tagging the mural with the message, “Antiracism is a codeword for antiwhite.”
Painted on a wall in the 11th arrondissement through the public art organization Le MUR, the mural features a modernized Joan of Arc wearing a motorcycle helmet and brandishing a red banner that reads “Liberté, Égalité, Humanité,” a variation on France’s national motto, “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Alongside the image, Combo stenciled the words “La France aux Français” (France for the French), which is the slogan of the far-right Front National party, crossed them out with red spray paint, and wrote beneath them “Les Françaises aux Africains” (Frenchwomen for Africans). He admitted that the mural was an act of provocation.
“The goal was to make people from the far right react, and it certainly worked,” he told the AFP. “If these militants had ignored me, they would have been smarter than me, but they fell for it.”
And fall they did. Two days after Combo completed the mural on June 13, vandals came and splashed gray paint over the words “Les Françaises aux Africains.” On June 17, nationalist blogger and activist Electre went several steps further, tagging Combo’s mural and using a GoPro camera strapped to her head to record the act of vandalism in a jarring point-of-view video that she subsequently posted on YouTube.
On the Front National–affiliated cultural commentary blog Culture, Libertés, et Créations, blogger Gabriel Robin condemned the mural’s slogan for its “racist and sexist character” and criticized the City of Paris for providing Le MUR’s €17,000 (~$19,300) annual budget.
“Combo aimed to provoke with an ambiguous message and it worked,” Le MUR President Bob Jeudy told the AFP. “I am neither for nor against it.” He added that Combo’s mural is scheduled to be painted over on June 26.
This isn’t Combo’s first run-in with the anti–street art contingent of France’s far-right. In February he claimed to have been beaten by a group of young men in Paris’s 12th arrondissement while he was putting up his distinctive “Coexist” tag — the “C” is an Islamic crescent, the “X” is a Star of David, and the “T” is a crucifix — which he began painting around the city in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
“I am not looking for pity because I’m aware of the risks I’m taking with my work,” Combo wrote on Facebook at the time. “But I want to denounce this type of behavior. You can say that my work is provocative, that maybe I was asking for it. But nobody will prevent me from expressing myself, practicing my art, and fighting for my ideas.”
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