It’s a shame that there are still people living in Germany that want to continue the Nazi legacy by defacing property with the now horrific swastika symbol, and while it can carry a feeling of fear, one graffiti artist in Berlin has taken it upon himself to combat the issue with some creativity.
Ibo Omari, who owns a graffiti store in Berlin, was inspired to take action after hearing about a male customer who took his son to a park that contained a wall defaced with a large Nazi flag and now wanted to get some paint to cover it up. Instead of selling him some cans of paint, Omari told the customer, “we are going to take care of it — don’t spend any money, don’t get your hands dirty”.
Omari could’ve easily covered up the swastika with a few sprays of paint, but he had a moment of inspiration and decided to turn the horrific image into something beautiful.
Soon after the action caught on across the city, the #Paintback campaign began. Within a few months, 11 other graffiti artists joined Omari in covering up at least 50 swastikas with fun designs of animals, Rubik’s cubes and more. As the #Paintback campaign gained more traction on social media, artists across Germany have stepped up to spread the transformations to their own cities.
“We wanted to answer with love and happiness so that young people can relate to it, and not just people who come from the graffiti or urban life,” Omari explained in an interview last week. “We take their ugly message and make something beautiful out of it.”
Despite public graffiti of all kinds being illegal, especially those that carry the Nazi symbol, Omari has made sure to get permission from building owners and local law enforcement instead of going through the bureaucratic process.
There is more to Omari’s passion to create change across the country though. As a refugee child who came to Germany in the late 70’s from Beirut, the Nazi symbolism hits close to home. He has seen Berlin change quite a bit in the last 20 years, but with the resurgence of right-wing hate, the progress he once saw has reversed.