An aspect of Réunion’s unique mix of ravishing natural beauty and expanding urbanisation is the preponderance of street art. There are wall paintings and elaborate graffiti everywhere. As I am no expert in the form, I’ll simply suggest you check out the masses of info and images available if you Google ‘graffiti in la Réunion’. I do know that probably the island’s foremost artist is Jace, whose little ‘Gouzou’ figures are about as ubiquitous as you can get.
My preference is towards the ‘naif” – I can’t help it! – the less obviously skilful and stylised, the more I like it. For instance, this slightly melancholy-looking rasta’s head adorns a wall in Terre Sainte, an atmospheric neighbourhood next to St Pierre’s harbour.
I’m fascinated by the practice of painting ads directly onto the wall. The slogan “Dodo lé la” (“Dodo’s here” in créole) can be spotted next to its jubilant extinct bird character in varying stages of creeping obliteration all over the island.
And it isn’t only wear and tear that individualises these wall-ads. I was really taken by the homespun addition to the Orangina ad (a product that always takes me back to cafes in the sixties with my Dad). How jaunty is that boat? How languid is that palm tree?
And the artistic potential of the palm tree (one of my obsessions, as some of my followers will know) is exploited in this expression of a sentiment I can wholly endorse, painted onto a wall under a bridge on a slip road off the island’s one radial highway – the feverishly busy N1. It translates as “If you think adventure is dangerous, I suggest you try routine – it’s fatal.”
This laudable concept is echoed on a slogan I spotted on an N1 bridge “Still Life Kills”, a philosophy which may underpin the national pastime of leaping into cars and charging at death-defying speed round the island. Personally, I’m not quite as heartily behind this concept, as when I’m negotiating the N1, I still feel there’s something to be said for still life. Or life, at least.
I found this piece of wall art on a wall outside K’ady supermarket on the road to the nearby town of Ravine de Cabris. To me, it represents the different layers of history on the island, each one colourful, important, and gradually revealing itself in constantly rearranging combinations of effect. I think it rivals Rothko in its depth and subtlety, and the artist is nature, the elements, time. You can’t get more naïf than that.
Jo Hepplewhite in Reunion