Northern Californian street artist Above set out to make a strong anti-blood diamond statement with a mural on the facade of Johannesburg’s largest diamond exporter, Jewel City. The mural was funded by the company who didn’t realize that the street artist had a trick up his sleeve. Above added a few words to what he told them would read “Diamonds Are A Woman’s Best Friend.” The final mural concluded with “And a Man’s Worst Enemy.”

Above explains what he thinks he did in the text that accompanied the street art video he posted on Vimeo:

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.

The problem with the message is that the meaning isn’t exactly what Above intended. Perhaps “Mankind’s” would have been a better choice or maybe he could’ve simply dropped the article — “a” — and simply say “and man’s worst enemy.” Either way the intended meaning was lost.

The result is a mural that reinforces a stereotype that suggests men are paying for diamonds for women who can’t wait to get their hands on them. Stay in school, kids.

p.s. boy are we thankful grammatical errors are easier to fix on blogazines than they are in murals. Word to the wise: Photoshop is a street artist’s best friend.

images via Arrested Motion

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

5 replies on “Why Grammar Matters in Street Art”

  1. The message works just not on the level YOU wanted. And to say that diamonds aren’t the realm of greedy, materialistic women and men who are forced to buy love is false. That is EXACTLY what happens.

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