Sex drugs appeltaart
400 andere teksten
op Tilburgse muren

by Jeroen Ketelaars

Out of the Can
by Dr. Reinhold Aman

When Allen Walker Read in 1935 published his pioneering collection of American graffiti, he had to have it printed privately in France. No American publisher was willing to risk his good name with the publication of what appeared to be nothing more than an anthology of "dirty" words, ironic statements, blasphemy, crude humor, sexual bragging, and excrement. Not even when Read gave his book the scholarly sounding title Lexical Evidence From Folk Epigraphy in Western North America. Not even when he stated on the title page that circulation of the book would be restricted to "students of linguistics, folk-lore, abnormal psychology, and allied branches of the social sciences." Thus Read, convinced of the importance of his collection, took his manuscript to Paris and had it printed at his own expense in seventy-five copies. Although only twelve of these are known to exist today, one of them fortunately became a source of inspiration for Jeroen Ketelaars.

Much has changed in the seventy years between Read's Lexical Evidence and Ketelaars's Sex Drugs Appeltaart. While most adults still object to unsightly graffiti on our walls, they consider them a form of communication and part of our society.

Graffiti too have changed. They came out of the closet (or rather, "out of the can"), because when Read was collecting written graffiti -- as opposed to painted or sprayed graffiti -- his hunting ground was the public toilet, the "can," with its abundance of offensive words, cynical aphorisms and folk poetry. Today graffiti are seen everywhere, from walls and windows to bridges and buses. By the end of World War II, the classic American graffiti hero Sam the shithouse man ("superintendent of the crappery can") had begotten a universal son: Kilroy, peering over a wall, who was everywhere.

Kilroy was here

While many of the graffiti found in Tilburg still reflect the old themes of love (Jeffrey is men schatje) and hate (Sylvana is een gratis hoer), sex (Kim de G---- wil je neuken) and elimination (Het stinkt naar pis), loneliness (Ik ben een ongelieft iemand) and boasting (I'm the best / fuck the rest), today's graffiti have added new categories and functions. Politics has become a prominent subject, racists and anti-racists fight their verbal battles on walls (Kanker Turken), and serious social and moral topics abound (Holland = Volland).

Quite a few of the graffiti found in these pages -- despite the richness of Brabant's culture and heritage -- lack poetry, imagination, esprit, and wit. Instead, they are drab statements of personal likes and dislikes or mundane comments, such as fotograaf is cool. Of course, this shift to less-than-clever graffti is not unique to the Netherlands but is evident in other European countries and North America as well. Also, mundane graffiti are nothing new; consider this Latin graffito found scribbled on a wall in Pompeii in A.D. 79:

Hic ego puellas multas futui
Here I fucked many girls

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as the Walloons say. Nevertheless, if you search long enough, you will find such pearls as:

You can call me a bitch
You can call me a whore
You can call me a slut
But I'm so much more.

Since this book is an objective record of contemporary graffiti, it would have been dishonest to suppress the chaff and just present the wheat. As they do so much else, graffiti also reflect today's declining feeling for language. In this collection, many graffiti reflect more local concerns, such as sports teams, the trouble with immigrants, and others topics understood best by Tilburgers and their neighbors.

While reading the graffito Kondneuken is gezond, I suddenly remembered the first graffito I ever saw on a wall in my Bavarian hometown Straubing -- 60 years ago:

Ficken, ficken ist gesund
Wer nicht fickt wird kugelrund.

And a few seconds later I also recalled the first Italian graffito I had seen on a house in the harbor district of Napoli, back in 1953, which poetically sums up what a man needs to be happy:

Acqua fredda
Vino puro
Figa stretta
Cazzo duro

Cold water,
Pure wine,
A tight cunt,
And a hard prick.

Ever since 1935, Professor Read's book has inspired many authors to research their own local environment on the same subject. Jeroen Ketelaars did so for his hometown Tilburg, a lovely city I was happy to visit in 1985 on my way back from Bavaria to the USA. Dilemma: I had to choose between (1) my cordial hosts on Hoffmannlaan enticing me with Margrietje's splendid supper and (2) walking through the snowy streets looking for vieze woorden op Tilburgse muren. But, as dedicated as I am to graffiti, I still chose the former and now am glad that my stomach beat my brain 20 years ago: thanks to Mr. Ketelaars's wonderful, well-organized and well-annotated collection now available, I have learned far more about Tilburg's graffiti than I could have back then.

The collection of graffiti you are about to enjoy shows that Tilburg is alive and kicking, and so are her graffiti-writers.

Copyright © 2005 by Reinhold Aman

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This is a bibliophilic, beautifully printed and clothbound edition in 400 copies, unnumbered pages, 10.5 x 16.5 cm. ISBN 90-78233-01-X. December 2005. 20 Euro.

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Publisher: Uitgeverij Code X
Postbus 23
5000 AA Tilburg
The Netherlands