This paper establishes the place of language and graffiti practiced by exceptional individuals in the interpretation of family values, the preservation of culture and traditional heritage of the Igbo community in Southeastern Nigeria. The paper also takes a cursory look at graffiti art and exceptionality in a time when the Igbo tradition and culture were highly respected, jealously guarded and deep-rooted in the heart and soul of its people. Graffiti creations by exceptional individuals transfer both oral and visual education to documented tradition; for societal knowledge and awareness, individual wisdom, expressions against repression, pride and recognition of Igbo language and art. Unfortunately, the post-Nigeria civil war, evangelical movements with their doctrines and practices, including the influence of western culture; the highly revered expressive medium of exceptional minds are fast disappearing from the Igbo environment. Today, the contemporary Igbo society seemed to be neglecting genuine graffiti art works, turning to other forms of mass communication to pass on information, messages and protests - example, the high-tech murals, internet blogs, electronic billboards, etc. The author recommends collaboration between exceptional artists, researchers and institutions, to revive the positive aspects of graffiti art, and commitment of individual graffiti artists; among others.
KEYWORDS: Graffiti, Igbo, Culture, Exceptionality, Tradition, Education, Language, West Africa.
Exceptional individuals in the ancient Igbo society were endowed with potential talents and creative skills which were displayed with great pride through different media in the community. An exceptional individual may have a disability or a significant gift or talent (Taylor, Smiley & Richards, 2008; Hallahan & Kauffman, 2003) with unique abilities and status in the society. Although such individuals may "differ from the norm" (Heward, 2006, p. 10), they strive to realize their full potentials through extraordinary creative projects which are performed to the delight of their environment. The ancient Igbo society in Southeastern Nigeria could boast of exceptional individuals with such extraordinary abilities (Hardman, Drew & Egan, 2008) which are translated in their self-initiated art works. These art creations communicate different cultural expressions and information to its audience via visual representations, written scripts, sketches, drawings, spoken word (language), etc. On the other hand, language in its general connotation is the vehicle with which the culture and traditions of a people are transmitted from generation to generation, and it also helps to enshrine unity, peace and decorum within a given society (Daily Champion, 2004).
To people who are unfamiliar with the art, Putatunda (2008) argued that all graffiti seems the same although there are several distinctive graffiti styles. Most of these styles, according to Putatunda, are about using particular fonts to create graffiti letters or graffiti characters. The author gave some examples and uses of graffiti which are as follows:
Tagging: This graffiti style is used mainly for displaying penmanship, and is considered as lacking in artistic form.
Blockbuster: As the name of this style implies, large sized block letters are used.
Wildstyle: Interweaving graffiti letters with designs.
Throw-Ups: Graffiti drawing that is done very quickly using few colors.
Bubble Letters: Large graffiti letters written in a rounded style.
Each of these graffiti styles can be used to create various types of graffiti (Putatunda, 2008):
Hip-Hop Graffiti: Reflecting African-American culture, this is considered to be the most traditional type of graffiti.
Challenge Graffiti: The intention of this type of graffiti is just to express that somebody 'was here.'
Poster Graffiti: Graffiti made on posters that have people's pictures on them. …