A California graffiti artist who goes by the name Above is not ashamed to say it was a lie.
He told an arts organization in Johannesburg, South Africa, he was going to paint for them an enormous mural that would read, and “Diamonds are a woman’s best friend.”
The mural on a wall surrounding the Jewel City complex in Johannesburg actually read, “Diamonds are a woman’s best friend and man’s worst enemy.”
The statement, an allusion to the controversy over Africa’s “blood diamonds,” has angered the property owners and led them to call for it to be immediately scrubbed.
“I decided to take it upon myself to lie and twist the truth as I felt that making this massive painting seen, and topic of blood diamonds talked about more, would justify my actions. I have justified my lying as I feel it created an epic social and political piece,” Above told ABC News.
Hundreds of diamond trading companies operate within Jewel City and Above said his mural is a statement about the human suffering caused by so-called “blood diamonds.”
“I honestly feel an obligation as a public artist who travels the world to make my artworks increasingly social and political with a strong voice. Making illegal or uncensored artworks in the street for any and all to interpret and see is one of the most powerful voices I feel a person can have these days,” said Above.
Property owners say the artist has embarrassed the local arts district which worked to get him permission to paint as part of an effort to revitalize a run-down neighborhood. They also feel they have been unfairly targeted, insisting companies in Jewel City do not trade in diamonds from Africa’s war zones.
“There’s a place to do that and take on someone moving blood diamonds. We are not moving blood diamonds. There are probably more blood diamonds going through Antwerp, Israel, and India,” Iain Nicol of Redefine Properties told reporters in South Africa.
Above said he personally financed the project which took him more than four days to complete.
“Blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds” are illegally mined by rebel groups fighting against established governments. The majority of the world’s “conflict diamonds” come from Africa where rebel groups sell the diamonds to purchase weapons, extending deadly conflicts that have displaced and killed millions of civilians.
In 2000, the United Nations and 74 countries agreed to abide by a process certifying the source of exported diamonds to ensure they aren’t funding violence. The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme was launched in 2003. Interest groups such as Global Witness say it is not stopping the funding of violence by tyrannical regimes, and the diamond industry does not have enough independent verification in place to assure consumers their diamonds are not contributing to war.