Navani Knows Graffiti: SSB and TATS CRU Collaborate on Tribute to Christopher “Shadow” Lee


I don’t make it up to the Bronx very often, even to see my own family (sorry Titi!). But when two legendary graffiti crews collaborate on a project you don’t want to miss it. Saturday, September 6th the Brooklyn-based SSB (Soul Stoned Brothers) crew and Bronx-based TATS CRU joined forces to pay tribute to Shadow AKA Christopher Lee (Spike Lee’s brother). The late SSB crew legend was a respected artist for  over 40 years. Kicking off at The Point CDC this was the first of many murals all over the country to pay homage to the artist. But to see it you have to be fast! It lasted a whole of two days then it was transformed into another project. That is the exciting thing about graffiti, one day it’s here and the next it is gone. It is a constantly changing and moving art form. Luckily, some press were invited to document the event. While there I caught up with graffiti pioneer and SSB founder AIM, AKA George Colon to get some back story. Check out some pics of the mural and hear George reflect on his friendship with Shadow below.

Continue reading

Navani Knows Controversial Art

When Cuban/Puerto Rican artist Sofia Maldonado was first commissioned to do the  92-foot mural that now in inhabits 42nd street, the Latin community was overjoyed. However, now that the piece is up it seems people are singing a different tune.

Yesterday, Hispanic and African-American Leaders and activists rallied on 42nd Street in Manhattan to demand the removal of a mural installed in the area, around the corner from Times Square. The mural in question depicts African-American and Latina women from all walks of life. Protestors stated in an open letter to the Board of Directors of the Times Square Alliance. that the mural “is unaceptable” as it “depicts African American and Hispanic women in a negative light”. “Not one business or professional woman is represented in the mural for balance” the release claims. “This art is an affront to all the hardworking Black and Latino women who struggle to maintain their dignity in a world that feels there are no repercussions for disrespecting them”, The letter, distributed among protesters and passers-by, also states the mural “is depicting…women as cheap looking”.

In response, San Juan native, Sofia stated:

“My artwork intends and aims to represent brave, strong, and tough women who have to overcome struggles in their daily lives and sometimes impose themselves in a male-dominated world. In a post-feminist society these women can own their bodies in a powerful way without being depicted negatively.”

Her intention was to  “represent a female aesthetic that normally isn’t seen in Times Square. Women who dress like this should be respected in society the same way as women with briefcases.”

What do you think??

I myself haven’t walked by the site yet to get the full experience. But based on the pics I saw, I had two reactions: first I was a lil disturbed UNTIL I found out that the artist was a Latina herself. Then, it didn’t bother me so much. It’s one thing if this is how someone else sees us and stereotypes us all in one form or another. But it’s another when it is one of us expressing our own experience. I doubt she is disrespecting her own people. Once I knew where Sofia was coming from I could get it. She was using her art to embrace all the strong Afro-Latinas that are familiar to her. It is her ode to women who are fighting to get ahead, in whatever way that may be. And giving tourists an introduction to a community that might not otherwise even see at the same time.

So, is this so wrong? Do you think the mural should come down? Or should we be celebrating the fact that a Latina artist was commissioned to do a project of this statue and our people are getting some type of artistic representation in the metropolis at all?

Continue reading