Banksy – Armored Dove Essay
Though Banksy rose to fame in the 1990s for his illegal graffiti art in the United Kingdom (UK) and North America, much is still not known of his identity. Believed to have been born in Bristol, England, the street artist grew up in a time when ‘rave’ culture was being criminalized, leading to a protest that influenced much of his political ideas in art (Banksy:You Are). Banksy’s earlier freehand painting style was later switched to stencils, which helped him paint his images faster, allowing him time to escape from the police (Banksy). This switch in his art style helped him along in his career as he began to develop a more effective way to communicate his satirical images using animals, particularly monkeys and rats to bring attention to the faults of our society.
Banksy’s choice of location is an important factor in the message of his artwork, especially for images like the Armored Dove of Peace, which he painted in Palestine to provoke thought and criticism on the conflict of this region. This area has been a source of conflict ever since the mid-twentieth century when a group of Jewish extremists formed from the results of a World War Two compromise declared that the land of Palestine was God’s holy land for the Jews and called Israel. As a result, a 420-mile separation barrier of 10% concrete wall and 90% fence was built splitting the Jewish Israelites from the Palestinian Arabs and furthering the conflict between the two groups. Israel claims that the wall is to protect their citizens from suicide bombers from Palestine but they have also prevented the majority of Palestinian Muslims and Christians in their nation-state to return to the other side (Q&A).
Banksy’s Armored Dove is one of the nine images painted on the West Bank Wall as a way to criticize the Palestine-Israeli conflict. The image features a white dove with its wings out wide in an open arm stance with an olive branch in its beak which symbolizes peace in reference to the biblical story of Noah and the Ark. After 40 days and nights of being trapped with his family and the animals in the ark, Noah sends out a dove to look for land. That evening, the dove returns with an olive branch in its beak revealing the presence of land nearby. Ever since, the dove and the olive branch has been a symbol of peace in the midst of chaos and disorder. The dove in this artwork also has it wings in an open arm stance parallel to the way Jesus died on the cross to wash away human sins which shows the dove’s openness to the idea of peace.
Unlike the traditional peace symbol, Banksy’s dove wears an armored vest with a target pointed at its chest, implying that someone intends to kill it. Even though the dove means well and has good intention (coming as a symbol of peace), it has to still be guarded with a flak jacket demonstrating that conflict on the West Bank is inevitable. No matter how much peace there is, someone in the world will always be around to create conflict.
This artwork has created many controversies in Palestine. Some people hate this image, as evident of the many bullet holes surrounding the doves’ head. One man even criticizes Banksy on making the wall too beautiful: “We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home” (Banksy 142). Others find inspiration in Banksy’s art and find it a powerful tool to help fight back against Israel (Banksy:You Are). Despite whatever opinion those in Palestine and Israel might have on Banksy’s Armored Dove of Peace, it can be concluded that he has helped a lot of people around the world see this region not as a “living incarnation of hell” but as a realistic place where people have dreams and goals.
That is what Banksy’s artwork is about: he seeks to inspire, to educate and to make fun of all the things that he finds wrong in our society. When many people think of graffiti art, they think of vandalism and spray paint, but there is more to it than that. As shown with Banksy, graffiti art can steer people to think in a way that is eye-opening. His Armored Dove of Peace demonstrates that conflict is inevitable, particularly for this region where both sides had not done nothing but build walls against each other. It shows the people of Palestine that there is more than one path in life, it inspires them to fight and it shows that not all hope is lost. It shows the people on the outside that life on the inside is not “hell”; it is a war zone but not hell. Banksy’s identity is unknown but his artwork is well known and it continues to this day to speak to the public.
Banksy. Banksy. London, England: Century, 2006. Print.
Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat and If You Were Not You You Would Know about It. Darlington: Carpet Bombing Culture, 2014. Print.
“Q&A: What Is the West Bank Barrier?” BBC News. BBC, 15 Sept. 2005. Web. 18 July 2016.