Last year I posted about Granadino graffiti artist El Niño de las Pinturas. He’s something of a local hero round here, owing to his trademark and instantly recognisable style that adorns the city’s walls, particularly in my bario, El Realejo.
Each piece I have seen is extraordinarily well done, and I insist on taking any friends on a tour of his works each time I am visited. Neither they nor anybody I’ve met here in Granada has ever had a bad word to say about the mystery man’s cultured contributions. Often he is invited by local businesses to come and jazz up their dull and colourless walls, and a couple of the local museums in town even feature him in their brochures. It gives Granada an urban edge that it would otherwise lack.
So it came as a shock when I happened to walk by one of my favourite pieces near the infamous, el niño-fied house, to find that it had been scrubbed away. Well, nearly anyway. Whoever had been assigned the task hadn’t done a very good job of it; there was still half of it left, as if to suggest that the design had been defiled out of pure spite.
Las Caras, back in October
What is the point?
Fair enough, at the end of the day these walls are somebody else’s property, and el niño, among other urban artists (some of whose works are admittedly a lot uglier in comparison) probably don’t have permission to use them. But what’s done is done, and as a matter of fact they (el niño’s contributions at least) actually brighten the place up, and bring an extra element to Granada’s cultural side.
I desperately hope that this isn’t the start of a mass graffiti-ridding project. There’s good graffiti and there’s bad graffiti, and el niño de las pinturas is unquestionably of the former sort.
It might be raining outside, but that won’t be stopping festival-starved merrymakers the nation over from flocking to what has arguably become Spain’s most legendary free rave, Dragon Fest, this weekend. The shindig will be held in Santa Fe, Andalucía for the third year running, after floods in its original homeland of Orgíva caused irreparable damage in 2010.
The principle of Dragon is simple. Turn up, armed with booze, food, some sturdy footwear, a pair of trunks and a full-blown appetite for pounding pounding techno music, and run wild and free for however long you may wish to do so. It’s all in the spirit of spontaneity and good fun – free, good fun, might I add – something that is hard to come by these days.
I attended 2012’s event, and had an absolute blast. Here’s why:
- Just in case you missed it, I’ll say it again: It’s free! No entry fee, no pitching charges and no moneygrubbing commercial stalls. It’s completely non-profit, and you can stay for as long as you want (that’s not to say that everything is free, however, so bring plenty of cash, food and water if you do go).
- The music is surprisingly good, given that none of the participating DJs are paid for their efforts. It does tend to tilt primarily toward psychedelic trance, or ‘gabber’ as it is affectionately known, though if this gets a bit much (it can easily happen) then other dance genres and random/improvised/often quite drunk bands can be found just about anywhere.
- Its location is miles away from anywhere – perfect for a festival of Dragon’s nature. In order to reach it, if a car isn’t to hand, a bus must first be taken to local town Santa Fe, from where festivalgoers hoof it the rest of the way. While a two hour or so walk along a wide-open, dusty road in the middle of the day may not be the most appealing of thoughts, the prospect of reaching your ever-nearing, hippie-humming oasis drives you on with the utmost determination. Once you finally reach the finish line, it soon becomes clear just why it was such a good idea to come. My arrival beer last year – a no frills Día special – was possibly my best ever. Gone in seconds, but never forgotten.
- There’s a hot springs. Yes, you read it right! Last year I spent an entire afternoon steadily recovering from a grueling hangover by this gently bubbling tarn. I was joined by many others, some clothed and some not so clothed. It was great fun, not too crowded and with the weather on our side made for an unforgettable day. Though I wouldn’t recommend coming if the sight of dense foliage and swinging manbits easily upsets you. This is a hippie festival in every sense of the word.
- The food is amazing, and extraordinarily cheap. Last year, there seemed to be endless supplies of fresh paellas, curries and other, miscellaneous home-baked (or campervan-baked, rather) food going about like it was going out of fashion. All of them delicious. Fortunately, ‘fashion’ is a senseless and decidedly ridiculous concept at Dragon so we had no problem devouring as much of it as humanly possible.
- Go for the people. There is no trouble, heavy-handed security or any (well, hardly any) of the usual loutish idiots you find at most British festivals; just a bunch of peaceful, chatty and very friendly people looking to enjoy themselves under a (fingers crossed) bright, blue Andalucían sky.
Dragon has by no means lived a trouble-free life since its conception in 1997, and was looking slightly done for following a Guardia Civil led offensive on the alleged ‘organisers’ of the event back in 2009. More on that next week though – wouldn’t want this post to, ha, ‘drag on’ now would I eh?
Ahem. Hopefully see one or two of you there. Thanks for reading. J
Throughout the 10 months or so that I have been lucky enough to call myself a resident of Granada, I have always been fascinated with the plethora of unrivalled Graffiti that adorns the historical city’s walls. Some of it, admittedly, is either of a shoddy or unremarkable standard, but a handsome percentage of this urban art is nothing short of awe-inspiring. There are, I’m sure, hundreds of would-be-artists claiming recognition for some of the city’s most famed pieces, but if you were to stop beside one and ask a number of passing locals if they knew the name of the artisan behind it, you would most likely hear just one answer: El Niño de las Pinturas (The Child of The Paintings). This guy is a proper legend. And I mean PROPER. For years he has been smearing previously dull-white walls with his unmistakable signature across the whole of Granada. Some of his pieces have featured in art magazines, documentaries and are now even considered a tourist attraction by the Granada Tourism Board, who will only be too happy to point art-ardent tourists in the right direction.
“Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place.”
― Banksy, Wall and Piece
The best part is, he remains a mystery. Well, perhaps not entirely, as I’m sure there are plenty of locals who would instantly recognise him in the street, but amongst us ‘giris’, the man’s face is as recognisable as a long lost aunt’s after two car crashes and several facelifts. A friend of mine was adamant that she knew the luminary’s identity, but after a terribly awkward yet hilarious (for me) conversation in a pub, the alleged master-painter (no, ‘painter’, not ‘bater’) turned out to be a full-time ice-cream vendor. Whoever he is, he’s supposed to be really nice anyway; another friend was lucky enough to have part of her garden wall painted by him, though the piece, sadly, has remained unfinished for years. Anyhow, I considered it not only a resident’s unmitigated duty, but a wholly gratifying experience to wander Granada’s streets and capture a selection of the legendary artist’s most stunning efforts. Scroll away…
Pages: 1 2