Artist Knapple created a large graffiti mural supporting the Black Lives Movement on a wall of the Pottergate underpass in Norwich. Shortly after, the mural was completely painted over by Norwich City Council workers on Thursday 4th June.
The mural, which came in the midst of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd, read: “Norwich against racism. Black Lives Matter. All cops are accountable”. It was revealed by the council that contractors were responsible for covering the message with black paint after a “terrible misunderstanding” in which a complaint went through an automated system to the contractors.
The council made the following official statement: “Yesterday, a complaint was made about offensive graffiti in the city. It was made online and went straight through an automated system to our contractor who, unfortunately, took action to paint over the mural. […] We will urgently work with our contractor to correct it.”
Norwich City Council tweeted: “We would like to recommission the artist to restore the mural. We want to assure everyone that it, and the message behind it, will stay with us all in Norwich. #BlackLivesMatter.”
The fault appears to be at the hands of the council’s contractors, and many have questioned the contractors’ failure to challenge the instruction to cover the mural. Knapple commented, “I think it shows a lack of compassion and understanding by the contractors, they didn’t think to query it?” A spokesperson of the council stated, “We do not consider this in any way to be offensive graffiti, we consider it an important work of art.” Why, then, we must ask, did the contractors seemingly acquiesce to the council’s order, and fail to question the ethical implications associated with covering the mural’s progressive message? Hopefully, this incident will prompt a new system to be put in place which re-evaluates what is considered offensive regarding street art, and protects the work of artists such as Knapple from being unjustly destroyed.
Despite Knapple questioning the contractor’s actions, the artist has agreed to repaint the mural and said the situation has “brought more attention to the cause so I’m quite happy”.
The council also announced that they “stand in solidarity with members of the BAME community in Norwich, across the country and globally”, and that they “denounce racism in the strongest terms.”