Street art & graffiti in Fort Kochi

Meydad Eliyahu's "Red Crown Green Parrot"

Meydad Eliyahu’s “Red Crown Green Parrot” project for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 in Jew Town.


If you walk around the streets of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, you are highly likely to come across many street art pieces created by local artists. In the past, people often referred to artists working in the streets as street artists, but now the boundary is blurrer as many artists around the world are commissioned to create street art, whilst street artists are showcasing their street art pieces in prestigious art galleries. Thanks to Banksy, the status of street art has been ‘elevated’ over the last decade or so.

At the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, Kashi Gallery commissioned Jerusalem-based artist Meydad Eliyahu, a descendant of Malabar Jews, and Dubai-based Thoufeek Zakriya, a Muslim born and raised in Kochi, to work on a public art project called “Red Crown Green Parrot”.

One of the pieces by Meydad Eliyahu (see above) is based on an historical photo of Eliyahu‘s great grandfather and other Malabari Jewish leaders taken in Fort Kochi. This work depicts the situation Malabari Jews had to deal with when they were forced by the Israeli goverment to move to Israel, leaving some family members behind. Like many others, Eliyahu‘s great grandfather passed away in Cochin after most of his family left for Israel.

Aside from works for the Biennale, you can still see many interesting street art pieces around town. Not surprisingly, nature is a common theme here.


street art FORT Kochi

street art Fort Kochi

street art kochi

street art Fort Kochi


street art Fort Kochi

street art Fort Kochi


I also spotted two dilapidated buildings covered with fascinating murals by the 24-year old Shanto Antony from Thrissur, a participant at the Biennale. I love his style, and I think it is a good idea to turn the facades of these abandoned buildings into an outdoor gallery.

street art Fort Kochi Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony

Shanto Antony’s murals for the Biennale


One of the most famous graffiti artists in Kochi is Guesswho, an anonymous graffiti artist who has been active since 2012. His work revolves around socio-political issues, and he has been named as India’s ‘Banksy’ by the BBC for his provocative graffiti esp. after he openly criticised the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.


guess who street art

guesswho street art

guesswho street art

guesswho street art

Guesswho street art


A city without street art is boring, and Kochi is definitely not one of them. Hence don’t forget to look out for the interesting street art and graffiti when you visit the place.


STREET ART fort kochi


Above: a good question…


The fascinating streets of Mumbai

Mumbai streets

Mornings and Sundays are the best times to ramble around Mumbai


I have wanted to visit India for years and yet never made it until recently. However, due to all the negative press on safety issues for female travellers in recent years, it made me quite anxious before my trip. The only ‘alone’ time during my month-long trip was in Mumbai, and even though I have a good friend there, I still had concerns despite being told that Mumbai is supposedly the safest city in India.

After spending a total of 5 nights at the beginning and the end of the trip, I can now say that Mumbai is generally a safe city for single female travellers. This was also confirmed after speaking to other single female travellers during my stay and they all felt the same way. I think when we travel in major cities, it is necessary to be vigilant anyhow, but I didn’t feel that Mumbai is more dangerous than cities like New York or London.






Mumbai’s rapidly changing cityscape


In fact, I found Mumbai utterly fascinating. Upon arrival, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the chaos, noise and pollution level, but I got over it quite quickly. I think it is a city that you would either love it or loathe it. Mumbai’s current urban population is estimated to be around 22 million (8th in the world), while London is just over 9 million (33rd), so if you think London is hectic, then try crossing the streets of Mumbai during the peak hours – it is really not for the faint-hearted.


Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat – the world’s largest open air laundromat


Mumbai cricket


Cricket is still Indian’s favourite sport


What make big cities interesting are usually the people, history, architecture and cityscape. In order to appreciate a city fully, you have to be act like a flâneur/flâneuse because walking is always the best way to explore a city. However, some cities are not made for walking i.e. Moscow (not made for pedestrians), and a mega city like Mumbai (I had no idea it was so vast before my trip) is hardly ideal for strolling around. Now due to the constructions of the metro system, the city looks more a like a gigantic construction site and will stay this way for the next few years. During my stay, I relied on uber a few times (cheap and pretty safe), took the train once (with a group), took a tuk tuk once and then spent the rest of the time on foot. I chose to stay in Fort (the old part of town) initially because I knew it would enable me to ramble, and at the same time enjoy the beautiful colonial architecture around me. I highly recommend strolling around Fort on Sundays as it is much quieter with less traffic and tourists.



mumbai  mumbai post box




A signage (see above) that looks very much like the London underground!


One of the problems the world faces today is homogenisation. Major cities around the world are being homogenised to the point that old neighbourhoods are disappearing to make way for international chains like Starbucks, Zara and H & M etc. Do we really want all the high streets (and airports) around the world to be the same? Starbucks has been trying hard to make each coffee shop look different, but this is just another marketing strategy to trick the consumers. I like Mumbai because it differs from cities like New York, London, or Hong Kong – It is vibrant, full of character and surprises. Here are some of the reasons why I love the streets of Mumbai:


The people

Despite its size and population, I actually found most people in Mumbai very friendly. At times, strangers would say ‘hello’ to me in the streets, while others would ask me for a selfie (Indians love taking selfies with foreigners), but I never felt threatened nor did anyone harassed me when I was alone. Interestingly, many Indians don’t mind being photographed, which is not always the case when you travel in countries like China and Russia.


mumbai  mumbai




tuk tuk mumbai


Colours & street graphics

Mumbai is a colourful city. I was particularly captivated by the trucks with hand painted water tanks around the city. They are so distinctive and playful – I love seeing them in the streets. While many first-world cities are embracing the digital technology and competing to be the world’s ‘smartest’ city, I found the hand painted street advertisment and signage very refreshing; I only hope that this kind of craftsmanship will not die out in the near future.

Indian graphic design is unique and conspicious without being tacky. They love usuing strong and contrasting colours with bold typpgraphy, yet they tend to work fairly effectively.


mumbai water trucks

mumbai water trucks

mumbai water trucks




mumbai graphics

mumbai street graphics  mumbai street graphics

mumbai street graphics

street graphics mumbai  street graphics mumbai

Colourful and interesting graphics



street art mumbai


mumbai street art

Street art



It is rare to see animals roaming around in big cities, but cows are ubiquitous in Mumbai, and sometimes they are just ‘parked’ on the pavement, which I find quite surprising.








Religious shrines

Religious conflicts are a complex issue across India, especially between Hindus and Muslims. Although the majority of the population in Mumbai are Hindus, you can still see mosques, churches, Gurdwara, Jain and Buddhist temples in different parts of the city. Hence you can find shrines of different religions in the streets, which indicates the diversity of the city.


Religious shrines mumbai

Religious shrines mumbai  Religious shrines mumbai

Religious shrines mumbai

tiles  mumbai tiles


Street food vendors

It is hard to avoid street food vendors in Mumbai, and the best ones often gather crowds around them. Regrettably, I didn’t dare to try the street food, but I loved walking past these stalls and often was drawn to them because of the smell and crowds.


mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors


Fruits and vegetable vendors

street food vendor

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai street vendor

mumbai Street vendors


Street vendors

I loved seeing a variety of small street vendors in different neighbourhoods. While many street vendors in other Asian cities are disappearing due to urban development and gentrifications, it gave me joy to see them still thriving in Mumbai.


mumbai Street vendors

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor



After listing all the positive points about Mumbai, there are some issues that I have yet to point out, and I shall continue in my next entry.

One sad incident also happened during my trip was the collaspe of the foot bridge connecting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station to Badaruddin Tayabji Lane. Seven people died and at least 30 others were injured in the incident that took place during the peak hour on the 14th March. When I heard the news, I was traveling in Gujarat, but I seemed to recall crossing the bridge less than 2 weeks ago.


mumbai bridge collaspe


The foot bridge that collasped less than 2 weeks after I cross it in Mumbai


I tried to search for the photo of the bridge on my phone but couldn’t find it (turned out it was on my camera). I wanted to know if it was the same bridge that I crossed had collapsed. And it was THAT bridge. My heart sank immediately. I felt terrible for the victims and their families, and I realised it could have happened to me.

Apparently, it was the third foot bridge that had collapsed in two years in Mumbai. Yet the structural audit and repairs of this foot bridge were carried out only six months ago. These incidents reveal the infrastructure issues, and negligence is still prevalent in Mumbai/ India. As foreign travellers, we are unaware of the depth of the issue, but this incident did make me see Mumbai in a different light.

mumbai sunset

mumbai sunset

Last evening in Mumbai


To be continued…











Christmas in London

regents street christmas lights

Regent Street’s Christmas lights


Apparently, the British are the most Christmas-obsessed people in the world, according to the results of a recent research. This doesn’t seem to surprise me judging from shoppers’ behaviour before Christmas. However, there is also a large population of people here who, under different circumstances, do not have families to celebrate with. Hence, Christmas can be quite daunting for those who don’t share the festive mood or joy.

This year, a group of Network Rail workers organised an alcohol-free four-course Christmas meal for 200 homeless people at the normally commuter-packed concourse inside Euston Station. Perhaps more cities should follow suit so that the homeless could share the festive spirit for just even a day.


st paul's cathedral

christmas lights tate britain

christmas lights tate britain  christmas lights tate britain

christmas lights

2nd & 3rd row: Playful ‘Home for Christmas’ art installations by English artist Alan Kane at Tate Britain; last row: love the Christmas decorations outside of this house in Clerkenwell!


Since I started the business 6 years ago, the few weeks running up to Christmas had been extremely hectic and stressful. I would either get sick or be exhausted by the time Christmas arrives, so the word ‘Christmas’ has a completely different meaning for me and those of use who work in hospitality or retail-related businesses. I have also learnt that traveling around this period is a nightmare – especially if you are taking any kind of public transport – so I try to avoid it at all costs. When I went to meet up with my mother in Paris for Christmas last year, I caught the stomach flu bug after Christmas and ended up vomiting several times on Eurostar on my way back to London. Yes, it was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

Luckily, I have some friends in London who also don’t have their families around, so I spent this period catching up with those whom I haven’t seen for some time. With 5 festive meals in one week, it was probably a shock to my poor stomach, but at the same time, thoroughly enjoyable.


chilli cool

the wells  the wells

the wells  afternoon tea 

Festive indulgence – Top: pre-Christmas Sichuan dinner at Chilli cool; 2nd & 3rd left: Boxing day lunch at Hampstead’s gastro pub The Wells; 3rd right: Festive afternoon tea with a free bottle of prosecco at the May Fair Hotel


And on Christmas day, I had arranged to meet up with my American friend in central London for an Indian Christmas lunch, which I considered to be quite unusual. The truth is that I couldn’t find a restaurant/pub that wasn’t overcharging on the day i.e. £75 or more for a so-called festive menu that didn’t appeal to me at all; and since there was no transport on the day, I had to find a place where we could both reach (I was on foot and she was cycling).

Days before Christmas, we were anxiously checking the weather forecast to see if it would pour or snow, but luckily, the weather turned out to be quite mild though a bit grey (unlike the blue sky on Boxing day). The walk from my home to the restaurant took about 75 mins because I opted for a scenic route via Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park; on route, I crossed paths with joggers and many independent tourists who were wandering and enjoying a much quieter London. Interestingly, I also walked past Euston station where I saw some homeless people and volunteers outside preparing for the Christmas meal event.


primrose hill

primrose hill

Regents park  euston



Walking through Primrose hill, Regent’s park and Euston


Both my friend and I were very satisfied and pleased with the service, value and food quality at Salaam Namaste, and we spent a pleasant few hours savouring our tasty three-course Christmas lunch. I had so much food that I didn’t even bother having dinner in the evening. Fortunately, the walk back home helped me to burn some calories…


Salaam Namaste  Salaam Namaste

Salaam Namaste  festive chocolate wreath

The 3-course Christmas lunch & a chocolate wreath – a gift from my friend


After I parted with my friend, I decided to take a different route back via Kings Cross and the canal. The roads were almost empty and there were very few people and traffic around the usually busy St Pancras Station. The city was surprisingly peaceful, and at the same time, quite surreal.

From Camley street, I crossed the Somers Town Bridge for the first time (I didn’t even know about it before the day), which was opened in the summer. This lightweight and sleek steel bridge is designed by Moxon Architects, and it links Camley Street with the Gasholder Park. In the summer, this area would be quite busy, but on Christmas day, there were only a handful of people strolling around at a leisurely pace.


British library  kings cross

kings cross canal

kings cross canal

somers town

somers town



street art  street art





After walking along the canal for about 20 mins, I finally reached Camden town, where the canal ends. And what caught my attention here was the post-modern futuristic style architecture on the opposite side of the canal. This is the Camden Sainsburys and housing designed by Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners in the late 1980s, apparently it was influenced by car manufacturing techniques. How interesting.


street art camden

street art camden

street art camden

street art camden  street art camden

street art camden







The best part of my journey was to walk through an empty Camden Town! I have never seen Camden so quiet before, and so I took the opportunity to explore the area’s vibrant street art.

Although I felt quite tired after the walk, I really enjoyed walking through London without the crowds and traffic. It enabled me to explore and see things that I might have missed normally, and best of all, it made me feel less guilty for indulging so much throughout this festive period.




hampstead  dog

Boxing day lunch and walking in Hampstead heath


After years of constantly aiming to spend Christmas elsewhere, I found staying in London for Christmas this year to be a pleasant and restful. Sometimes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and maybe this is something I finally got to understand lately.


waterloo place




Live tango performance and dancing at the Southbank centre during the festive period



The gentrification of Brixton

p1170468-min  brixton windmill

brixton windmill

brixton windmill

brixton windmill  brixton windmill  coffee brixton

The restored grade II* listed Ashby’s Mill, also known as Brixton windmill (1816) & a trendy cafe nearby


Due to rapid urbanisation around the world, major urban cities are struggling to cope with the influx of migrants for the past few decades. Housing shortage is one of the biggest challenges that these cities have to deal with; hence gentrification of the more deprived neighbourhoods has been adopted to solve this ongoing issue.

The term ‘gentrification’ was first coined by German/British sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964, and it was used to describe the processes by which the poor were squeezed out of parts of London to make way for the middle and upper classes. Unsurprisingly, the term carries a negative connotation due to increased property values and the displacement of lower-income families and local businesses. Since the 1960s, many neighbourhoods in London have undergone unprecedented transformation, and not all have been welcomed.

When I was young, I was often warned about areas in London like Brixton, Kings Cross, Camden Town, Dalston, Bethnal Green and even Soho because of high crime rates, drug dealing and prostitution issues. Brixton was regarded as ‘the drugs capital of London’, and so it was seen as a no-go area in London – unless you were going to The Fridge (a well-known nightclub in the 80s & 90s).

I only got to know Brixton because of my ex – who owned a flat there – and it was around that period that the area started to transform. I used to walk through Brixton with my head down when I was alone because I was afraid to catch the eye of the drug dealers or gangsters. Then gradually I felt more relaxed and began to explore the colourful and bustling food markets and independent shops selling vintage/ethnic fashion. There were hardly any chained shops or trendy cafes then, but there were many local restaurants and cafes serving good cheap eats.

I have only been back to the area a few times since he sold his flat – for a hefty profit – but I never spent enough time to see the changes that took place. Twelve years on, I was back in Brixton for a day during the design festival, but I could hardly recognise it. Yes, the architecture still stands but everything else has changed. Our previous after-party eatery Speedy noodles has become Foxtons, and the once dated department store Morleys looks more like House of Fraser now after the glossy makeover.




brixton old post office

brixton old post office  brixton

Top & bottom left: Brixton sort office on Blenheim Gardens (1891); Bottom right: The Windmill pub is also a live music venue


My visit to the gentrified Brixton brought memories and surprises. The surprises came from the area’s historical architecture, which is something that I overlooked in the past. In fact, Brixton has a diverse range of architecture – from Victorian to Edwardian and modernist – it is unlike any other neighbourhoods in London. And not to forget, it is also home of the only surviving windmill, Brixton windmill in inner London.


Corpus Christi Church, Brixton

railway hotel brixton  brixton

brixton library

St Matthew's Brixton   brixton

bon marche brixton

brixton dogstar


Top: The Grade II listed Corpus Christi Church (1887); 2nd left: The Railway Hotel, aka Brady’s Bar (1880) is now Wahaca Mexican restaurant; 3rd row: Brixton Library (1893); 4th left: Portico of the Grade II listed St Matthew’s church (1827); 4th right: Market House; 5th: the former Bon Marche department store (not related to the one in Paris) opened in 1877; 6th: Dogstar bar (former Atlantic pub)


Brixton has always been known for its diverse culture and music scene. The beloved Railway Hotel/ Brady’s bar – with a distinctive tower – has been a landmark since it first opened as a hotel in 1880. It became a popular spot for music and dance, and was reputedly frequented by Jimmy Hendrix and The Clash in the 1960s. Renamed as Brady’s in the 1990s, the iconic venue eventually closed down in 1999 and was left derelict since then. Despite long and persistent efforts to convert it to a community centre, the council finally sold it to the property developer, and now the site is occupied by the Mexican food chain Wahaca. Although the chain claims that it has restored the site to its former glory and is committed to the local community, it is hard not to feel sadden by the increasingly homogeneous streetscape in London now.


brixton railway arches

brxiton railway arches

Brixton railway arches


Recently, clashes between Brixton’s anti-gentrification protestors and the police have made headline news. The protestors are angry that 30 local independent businesses in the Brixton Railway arches are being evicted by their landlord, Network Rail, and Lambeth Council, for a £8 million redevelopment of the arches. A petition objecting to Network Rail’s proposal has attracted nearly 30,000 signatures, and you can find more information by clicking on the Save Brixton arches website.

I can totally understand why the protestors are so upset especially after a visit to Pop Brixton, a Boxpark-like ‘village’ near the arches. The so-called village is occupied by trendy streetfood stalls and filled with young hipsters who usually hang out in Shoreditch, Dalston, Hackney and Peckham; and it looks completely out of place among the local market and shops nearby. As one can imagine, like the three areas mentioned, soon or later, Brixton will lose its unique identity and cultural diversity, and become another hipster paradise full of trendy and overpriced cafes and bars. Many have criticised the act of gentrification is a class war, and it is not difficult to see why they think that way.


Lambeth townhall

lambeth townhall  the former South Beach Bar brixton

ritzy brixton

brixton fire station


Top row & 2nd left: The Lambeth Town Hall (1908); 2nd right: the former South Beach Bar originally opened as the Brixton Hill Cinematograph in 1911; 3rd row: the Grade II listed Ritzy cinema (1911) is now run by Picturehouse; Bottom two rows: Brixton fire station (1906)


electric brixton

 Prince of Wales public house brixton

Olive Morris House brixton

brixton centre

brixton recreation centre  Rush flower sculpture in Windrush Square

The Black Cultural Archives

Top: Electric Brixton/formerly known as The Fringe, originally opened as the Palladium Picture Playhouse in 1913; 2nd row: The Prince of Wales public House was built by Joseph Hill F.R.I.B.A. to replace the old building in 1937; 3rd row: the Brutalist Olive Morris House was designed by Edward ‘Ted’ Hollamby in 1975-8, 4th & 5th left: the Grade II listed Brixton Recreation centre was designed by British architect George Finch in 1971 and took 12 years to complete. Its future is uncertain and it is still under the threat of demolition; 5th right: Rush flower sculpture in Windrush Square; Bottom: The Black Cultural Archives opened in 2014


Streetscape, shops & people


brixton bovril ghost sign



brixton  brixton


brixton  brixton

brixton  brixton

brixton market

birxton  brixton


The unique streetscape and shops in Brixton


michaels meat brixton



brixton  brixton



The colourful food market and shops selling fresh and exotic produce


Street art/graffiti


A mural inside the station created by Karen Smith and Angie Biltcliffe in 1986

brixton street art

brixton nathan bowen

brixton street art

brixton street art  david bowie street art  invader brixton

brixton street art

brixton street art

Top: A mural inside the station created by Karen Smith and Angie Biltcliffe in 1986; 3rd row: Street art by Nathan Bowen; 6th middle: David Bowie mural; 6th right: French street artist Invader‘s mosaic; Bottom two rows: Save Brixton arches street art – the bottom one was created by morganico and Maria Beadell


Street art and graffiti has always played crucial role in Brixton, and the eviction of local business by Network Rail has given the street artists a platform to express their dismay. One can find street art under the arches against the controversial redevelopment and unfair eviction.

Across the street lies David Bowie‘s famous mural created by Australian street artist James Cochran in 2013. Now the mural has become his shrine and it may even get listed.

I can’t help feeling pessimistic about the future of Brixton. I think soon or later, local business run by Caribbean, African and other ethnic minorities will eventually be pushed out due to the increased rental costs, change of demographics and the invasion of chained/corporate-run businesses. But despite my pessimism, I still believe that community/people power can change things, and during this unsettling time, we need to support each other more than ever to fight for what we believe in.



Street art and graffiti in Brighton

Odisy and Aroe

Odisy and Aroe MSK’s Run DMC mural in Kensington Street, created in 2008


Brighton is known for its arts and culture scene, and so it is not surprising to see a thriving street art scene here. The city is full of original street art pieces including a Banksy – the two kissing policemen – which was sold off at an auction, and now the spot is replaced by a replica. Is Banksy the Picasso of the street art scene? It seems like it.


Aroe MSK

fat heat  Daryl Bennett

brighton street art

Top row: Aroe MSK; 2nd left: Fat Heat; 2nd right: Sinna One


Kensington Street in The North Laine has a high concentration of prodigious street art murals. Most of the multi-storey walls here covered with artworks by local or international street artists like Aroe MSK, Hungarian-based Fat Heat and London-based Odisy etc.

One of the newest pieces is a mural of dogs, commissioned by the Brighton Festival. Created by Brighton-based artist and illustrator Sinna One, the playful piece was inspired by Laurie Anderson‘s love of dogs.


brighton street art

Resin & Spen  Odisy & Tomjiroe

brighton street art

brighton street art

2nd left: Resin & Spen; 2nd right: Odisy & Tomjiroe; Bottom: RIP Mark Crook by Aroe MSK

brighton street art  brighton street art

agent petruscioni/Petrusco

Aroe MSK  agent petruscioni/ Petrusco


emily evans


2nd & 3rd right: Petrusco/Agent Petruscioni; 3rd left: Aroe MSK; 5th row: ‘The Doom’ created for Red Bull’s ‘Watch This Space’ event by London-based Emily Evans; 4th & bottom row: SNUB23.


I stumbled upon Brighton-based artitst SNUB23‘s unfinished geometric piece ‘Iso Hectic’ while I was wandering around the city. The finished can be seen via the artist’s website, and it reminds me of M.C. Escher’s mindbending graphical works.

Brighton-based artist Petrusco‘s stencilled graffiti was initially mistaken as Banksy‘s new work, partly because of its message of political activism and human rights. The stencilled piece ‘Never underestimate the power of the flower‘ features a woman holding a flower and the peace symbol as a shield, and underneath it is the stencilled signature Agent Petruscioni. Another piece is called ‘Revolution starts in your mind. Join in’, and can be seen in different parts of the city.


brighton street art

brighton street art

brighton street art  brighton street art

brighton street art

brighton street art  brighton street art

brighton street art

brighton street art

Typographical lettering works can be seen all around the city


Besides walls, the city’s electricity boxes have also been turned into artists’ canvases. Many of them are humourous and even dissuade littering, which is great.

If you visit Brighton next time, don’t forget to check out the city’s diverse and inspiring street art scene!


brighton street art  brighton street art

brighton street art  brighton street art

brighton street art  brighton street art

Electricity boxes around the city (except 2nd right)



Reykjavik’s street art

reykjavik street art


Street art has become a global cultural phenomenon in the 21st century. What started as a subversive culture in the 1970s/80s New York has now evolved into a contemporary art movement.

While numerous street artists employ this medium to express their political views towards their governments and society, there are many who simply want to beautify the cities or connect with people through their aesthetically-driven work.


Painting the music A mural by Deih

Guido van Helten

Top row: Painting the music by Deih; Bottom row: Australian artist Guido van Helten‘s large murals on the Loftkastalinn’ building are based on images from the screen play of Reykjavik 1961 theatre production, ‘no exit’ by Jean Paul Satre.


Before my trip to Iceland, I was rather ignorant of their art and design scene, and I was most certainly surprised to see a thriving street art scene in Reykjavik.

Like other Scandinavian countries, Iceland is often regarded as one of the ‘best’ places to live in the world. After the bankruptcy in 2008, the country has since made a miraculous financial recovery, and now the country’s economy is growing again. When compare to countries with more social or political or economical issues, I assume that the Icelandic citizens would probably have less to complain about. Well, maybe not.


reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art


Graffiti in public space was regarded as a major issue for the City of Reykjavik for years. And after the city council began to crack down on unauthorised graffiti, street artists decided to seek permission to paint on property owners’ walls or to accept commissions from businesses. And from what I saw, most of the art works now are more artistic-driven than political-driven. Yet the artistic values of these works are not to be underestimated, and they undoubtedly bring vibrancy and creativity to the city.


reykjavik street art  reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art

reykjavik street art  reykjavik street art

Street art in Glasgow

taxi balloons by  Rogue-one

Mitchell Street‘s Taxi Balloons by Rogue-one


Before visiting Glasgow for the first time, I had a somewhat gloomy and rundown image of the city in my head, yet this preconceived idea was shattered when I arrived at the bustling city on a sunny day.

I was lucky with the weather, so I was able to walk around the city on foot and enjoyed the sights and architecture that the city has to offer. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the wonderful street art that I encountered in different parts of the city, these uplifting and playful works undoubtedly contribute to enhancing the streets of the city.

A majority of the prodigious wall murals in the city were commissioned by the City Council from 2008 onwards. Many renowned local artists took part in the project including Smug and Rogue One. If you are interesting to learn more or follow the official street art trail, you can download the map via this link and visit the Discover Glasgow website.


Rogue one Girl with Magnifying GlassEmoticon Hamlet Giant panda by Klingatron

Top left: Dancing puppets by Rogue One (John Street); Top right: Girl with Magnifying Glass by Smug (Mitchell Street); Bottom left: Emoticon Hamlet by Peter Drew; Bottom right: Giant panda by Klingarton (Mitchell Lane)


The most impressive murals in my opinion are the series of pieces promoting the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the Ingram Street car park. Created in 2013 by Glasgow based Australia street artist Sam Bates a.k.a. Smug, the pieces depict the four seasons in a picturesque Scottish country scene, featuring an array of animals, including his infamous squirrel. The squirrel can also be spotted under the Kelvinbridge subway station (see below).


Ingram Street car park Ingram Street car park street art Ingram Street car park street artIngram Street car park street art

Ingram Street car park by Smug


Nearby at the Strathclyde University (on the corner of George Street/North Portland Street), a series of murals named ‘The Wonderwall’ were created by several artists including Art Pistol, Rogue One and Ejek.


Strathclyde University, The Wonderwall Strathclyde University, The WonderwallStrathclyde University, The WonderwallStrathclyde University, The Wonderwall

Strathclyde University, The Wonderwall


There is plenty of work to be explored within the city, so on your next visit to Glasgow, watch out for these cool street art!


Kelvinbridge subway station street artKelvinbridge subway station street artKelvinbridge subway station street artglasgow street art glasgow street artKelvin Walkway

Top three rows: Kelvinbridge subway station street art by Smug & Bottom row: Kelvin Walkway by Smug


Hong Kong’s street art & exhibitions 2015

mui wo smile maker

A giant pig in Mui Wo by Smile maker Hong Kong


It is interesting to see Hong Kong’s street art scene evolving over the last few years (you can read my previous entry from last year here). Compare to city like London, it is still in its infancy, but it is certainly more ‘happening’ than other immaculate-looking neighbours in Asia.

Street art is becoming more mainstream here, and it is partly due to HK walls, an annual street art and graffiti festival. The mission of the organisation is to create opportunities for local and international artists to bring their talents to the streets of Hong Kong by transforming large exterior walls into original works of art. The event took place in March, but you can still find a lot of the art work around SoHo, Sheung Wan and the Western district of Hong Kong island.


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Top left: Parent’s Parents (HK); Top right: Rukkit (Thailand); 2nd row: Bruce Lee by Xeva (South Korea); 3rd right: Hopare (France); Bottom right: Rookie (Taiwan) & Gas (China)


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2nd row: ‘Reclining Lady’ by Victoriano (Spain); Bottom right: Szabotage (Hong Kong/UK)


I stumbled upon an alley off Tai Ping Shan Street in Sheung Wan one day, and I was quite pleasantly surprised to see an array of works by local and international street artists like Barlo (Italy/HK), Egg Fiasco (Philippines), exld (Philippines) and Jay Flow (South Korea) etc covering both sides of the walls.


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Top right: Barlo; 2nd row: exld, 3rd left: Egg Fiasco; 4th row: Jay Flow (South Korea)


Aside from the streets, art galleries are now seeing the value of works by street artists (thanks largely to Banksy). A solo exhibition of the notorious American street artist Alec Monopoly was presented ‘Capital Games’ at Above Second gallery in March/April. Monopoly is best known for his tuxedoed and top-hatted graffiti character of Uncle Pennybags, an idea originally inspired by the stockbroker Bernie Madoff. It is both apt and ironic to see his works (a critique of the capitalist greed) on the streets of a financial centre like Hong Kong. And aside from Uncle Pennybags, childhood mascots like Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck were also featured at the exhibition. I was informed by the gallery assistant that his works sold exceedingly well, and many of the buyers were locals who seem to appreciate his playful and yet critical style.


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Top row: Alec Monopoly’s street art; 2nd row: Alec Monopoly’s solo exhibition at Above Second gallery; Bottom: The ‘original’ Hong Kong street artist King of Kowloon’s calligraphy work at Lightstage


At the Lightstage Art & Events Space in March/April, the Google Cultural Institute dedicated an exhibition to Hong Kong’s cultural icon King of Kowloon (Tsang Tsou-choi), who painted over 55,000 street ‘calligraffiti’ works during his lifetime on the streets of Kowloon. Misunderstood and dismissed by the public and local authority during his lifetime, Tsang‘s work is finally being recognised worldwide and it is fantastic to see Google’s online virtual museum paying tribute to this ‘urban poet’.


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Top & second rows: Invader’s ‘Wipe out’ exhibition at PMQ; Bottom two rows: New works by Invader


One of the most talked-about exhibitions in May was famous French street artist Invader‘s “Wipe out” exhibition at PMQ. Invited as a guest of the French consulate and as part of Le French May, the exhibition was a response to the Hong Kong authorities’ efficient removal of his pixelated mosaic works in 2014. Somehow dismayed by this undertaking, the street artist not only gave  the exhibition a pertinent title, he (a guess after watching the work-in-progress videos at the exhibition) ‘invaded’ the city again.

What is so compelling about the street art phenomenon is the dialogues between every city’s authorities and the artists. What are the boundaries? Are the works vandalism or acts of defiance towards the authorities? Artists in the past have often challenged the authorities and expressed their opinions through art, the only difference now is that they are doing it outdoor instead. This is why I think the global street art scene is much more exciting than traditional art scene at the moment.


An unguided tour of Lisbon’s urban art

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Av Fontes Pereira de Melo – Top & 2nd row: Os Gemeos and Blu


Before coming to Lisbon, I was a bit clueless in regards to Lisbon’s street art scene. Over the last few years, I have been documenting street art during my travels and in London; and it brings me immense thrill when I stumble upon cool urban art pieces in the most unexpected places. I never do research beforehand nor do I search for them intentionally because I think this will spoil all the fun.

Nonetheless, it is almost impossible to miss the amazing street art in Lisbon because of its discernible presence! I was completely blown away by the scale and creativity, and as much as I love Lisbon’s museums and galleries, I think the best contemporary Portuguese art work is to be found on the streets!


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Av Fontes Pereira de Melo – Top: Erica Il Cane (Crocodile) and Lucy McLauchlan (birds); Bottom: Sam3


The ‘must-see’ destination has to be Av Fontes Pereira de Melo, where a cluster of derelict buildings is covered with giant art works created by a group of internationally-renowned street artists. When I saw the works while I was on the airport bus heading towards the city centre, I decided to make a special trip to visit the site one day.

I later found out that the project was initiated by Crono project (founded by Alexandre Farto/Vhils in 2010), which aimed to turn facades of abandoned buildings into masterpieces of contemporary art. Here are some of the artists involved in this project: Os Gemeos (Brazilian twins), Blu (Italian), Erica Il Cane (Italian), Lucy McLauchlan (British) and Sam3 (Spanish). It is necessary to stand on the other side of the street to appreciate these murals fully; unfortunately, I arrived late in the afternoon and the lighting was not ideal to capture these stunning art works.


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The Amoreiras Wall – Top: Nomen, Slap and Kurts; 2nd row: Nomen; 3rd row: The Nightmare Before Christmas by Kurts, Styler, Slap


Since I spent most of time in Lisbon on foot, it subsequently enabled me to come across some of the city’s marvelous street art by chance. My second surprise came when I discovered The Amoreiras Wall of Fame, an seemingly endless wall located between Amoreiras Shopping Centre and Marquês de Pombal Square. The graffiti started in 1995, and over the years, many of the original murals being painted over. But you can still find many outstanding murals created by famous local artists. My favourite is the mural of German chancellor Angela Merkel as a puppet master, holding the Portuguese Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister on strings. This was made by Nomen, Slap and Kurtz just before her visit to Lisbon in 2012. Highly political but brilliantly depicted.


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Alcântara tunnel


My third surprise came when I got off the train at Alcântara-Mar station and walked down to the underground tunnel. The last thing I expected to see was the entire tunnel covered with street art murals!

I later discovered that the project was initiated by Portuguese Association of Street Art (APAURB) as part of the regeneration of the area. About 400 local and international artists took part in this project, and I particularly like the wonderful murals of Lison’s streetscape. This project demonstrates how street art can rejuvenate even the grottiest areas or places in the cities, and I think more cities need to follow suit.


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Street art in Alcântara


Venturing outside of the station, you can see a diverse array of street art including calligraffiti by Dutch graffiti legend Niels ‘Shoe’ Meulman. However, Shoe’s original black and white work has since been painted over with purple and green spray with 2 words: ‘Hium’, ‘Quê?’ (see above).


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Since Lisbon is a colourful city, its street art is equally vibrant and playful. Aside from building facades, walls and underground tunnels, the city’s recycle bins are also used as canvases for street artists.

The concept was conceived by Galeria de Arte Urbana, founded in 2008 by Ines Machado as part of the regeneration plan of Bairro Alto for City Council of Lisbon. The City Council felt the need to create a site dedicated to street art, and wanted to open a dialogue with the street art community. The objective of gallery is to promote street art, and reject practices of vandalism and disrespectful actions towards other artistic works. The gallery believes that all of these artistic languages can co-exist in the urban landscape in a democratic manner, while emphasising the importance of cultural heritage preservation, conservation and restoration. I applaud Lisbon’s City Council for its open-minded attitude towards street art and graffiti; its tolerance and forward-mindset plainly put many other city councils to shame. And this applies particularly to many Asian cities where artistic expressions are regarded as vandalism, since they all compete to look as pristine and glossy as they possibly can. This image-control attitude reveals how different the paradigm of  ‘democracy’ is interpreted in the Eastern and Western societies.


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Walking around Lisbon, you are mostly likely to come across the ‘signatures’ of different street artists including a yellow cat by Monsieur Chat from France and a yellow pencil character ( though I am not sure who the artist is).


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Street and urban art in tiles


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Street art in Cascais – 3rd & 4th left: Diogo Machado; 4th right & 5th row: Easp; 5th & bottom rows: Dalaiama


In the seaside resort town of Cascais, I also discovered some intriguing street art and one of them was an odd-looking derelict house that appeared to be covered in blue and white azulejo.

Seeing it from afar, I was curious and so I walked over to have a proper look… it was then I realised that the azulejo was in fact a mural rather than ceramic tiles! This impressive work was created by a local artist Diogo Machado (also known as Add Fuel), who is well-known for his distinctive and quintessentially ‘Portuguese’ azulejo-inspired street art pieces. I have never seen anything like this before and I absolutely love it!

Other notable graffiti artists’ work in Cascais include Easp and Dalaiama (look out for the black pacman-like character with birds).

Like London, Lisbon offers many guided street tours, but I still recommend exploring on your own if time is not a constraint. It is enjoyable and full of unexpected surprises that will make you ‘see’ the city in a different light.


Manchester’s past & present


Bridgewater canal in Castlefield


Like human beings, all cities have their own characteristics, memories and energies. Having lived in several major cities at different stages of my life, I have come to realised that some cities’ energies and mine just don’t blend well (possibly to do with feng shui?). There are cities that I find inspiring and uplifting, yet there are some that I find depressing and draining. Whenever I am in a city, I’d like to play the role of an outsider (even in London), because it allows me to detach myself and observe the city and its people more objectively. I want to use my senses to perceive a city… the architecture, urban landscape, smell, pollution, colours, people’s facial expression, behaviour and fashion are all details that we can easily miss if we don’t pay attention to them.

Cities are constantly evolving, some of their histories may have been forgotten or be buried underground, but their intrinsic essence rarely changes over a short period of time or even after major disasters (e.g. New York). Most importantly though, it is the citizens who largely contribute to the collective energy of a city.


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Although Manchester’s city centre is vibrant and bustling, I regard the historical Castlefield as the ‘soul’ of the city. Not only this is the birth place of the city, it is also said to be the start of the industrial revolution because of the arrival of Bridgewater Canal, the world’s first industrial canal built in 1764, commissioned by by Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater.

Since I was staying in the area, I decided to stroll along the canal in the morning. The vibe was calm and subdued, very different from the hustle and bustle vibe in the centre. I was fascinated by the varied styles of railway and foot bridges here, and while standing under them, I began to imagine when this place was full of activities and working people. I could sense the history here, many untold stories seemed to be hidden underneath these massive steel bridges and old warehouses.


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Another historical part of Greater Manchester is Salford on the other side of River Irwell. However, the area has suffered from high-levels of unemployment and social issues for decades, and even the recent regeneration scheme has had many setbacks. Wandering on the edge of Salford, I was surprised by the slightly rundown and quiet streets. Like Castlefield, there is a big contrast between this part of the city and the centre, but again, one could sense its historical past.

I was particularly intrigued by the facade of a historical-looking pub tucked away on a desolate back street called Eagle Inn (also known as The Lamp Oil). Later, I found out that the pub dates back to 1848 at its current site, and it is housed inside a Grade II listed building from 1903. In recent years, the pub was under-threat due to the regeneration of the area; luckily it was saved and the interior of the pub has since been restored, with the cottage next door being converted into a live music venue.


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The streets surrounding the pub look rather derelict, but I found them more interesting than the glossy buildings in the centre. These derelict sites tend to capture my imagination, they trigger my curiosity about the histories and stories behind them. I once read that people’s interests in derelict or abandoned places or ruins are related to our own mortality. Perhaps so. I think we are all subconsciously (or consciously) aware that whatever possessions we own will inevitably be destroyed, lost, disintegrated or be given away one day. These places remind us that nothing will last forever.


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Like humans, cities may experience prosperity and declines throughout their existence. Countless cities had been destroyed throughout history due to human destructions or natural disasters, yet many ancient cities have miraculously survived too. Cities are never static; buildings and roads are constantly being constructed or rebuilt, people come and go daily, and they all silently leave their visible or invisible imprints behind. Cities are fascinating because everything is man-made; and behind each creation, there is at least one human story to be told.

I have come across many cities that feel utterly ‘soulless’, but Manchester is certainly not one of them. And I believe it is the many human stories behind this city that make it special and enticing.


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 Street art in Manchester