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2013 | 53 | 7–38

Article title

Taagin, jarelikult olen olemas. Paroomiline pilguheit Tartu grafitile


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The article observes the paremic (proverbial-phraseological) element in public space in Tartu, the second largest city in Estonia. The author concentrates on dynamic spaces which are freely accessible to all, without any limitations (incl. important elements of urban space, such as shopping centres, cultural and leisure time centres, stations), and involve the values, symbols and signs of urban life. The aim of the writing is to analyse the nature, proportions and meanings of the paremic matter in the following studied sources: 1) street graffiti, i.e., the (anonymous) drawings, scribblings and writings (200 texts); 2) specific poster texts generated by the Tartu group of the international Loesje movement, which have been glued on the walls of buildings, electrical switchboards, lamp posts, etc. in Tartu since 2004 (the poster collection is available in Estonian, English and Russian at http://www.loesje.ee, and includes 515 texts). The primary source for the current article comprises graffiti photographed by the author in Tartu since the beginning of 2011. The texts have been mainly recorded within the town centre; however, Karlova and Tähtvere districts also demonstrate a conspicuous amount of paremic graffiti. The analysis of multi-modal texts focuses on the proportion of the traditional and improvisational, local and global in the paremia. The aim of the article is to explain what kind of social status, mentality and expressiveness is contained in the texts of this specific cultural phenomenon, and what are the identities, platforms, ideas, and the social reality (concrete events) that these utterances are helping to reflect. The analysis of paremic graffiti texts as social communication applies context-centred methods which give consideration to the social context (i.e., who creates them for whom, where, when, for what reason, what is the receiver’s cultural potential to interpret the graffiti text), and also dwell upon the connection that graffiti has with other domains and other forms of art. The paremic text in graffiti often involves and supports the elements of pop-culture and helps to fulfil the human, philosophical, socio-political, self-expressive and sometimes very aggressive and protest-minded aspirations of the author of a particular graffiti text. Graffiti as a multi-modal written cultural form is open, flexible and adaptable to the surrounding reality. The paremic material is indeed conspicuous in the street art of Tartu, partly due to the fact that among graffiti artists there are many conscious, mission-oriented university and art school students whose actions are inherently carefully premeditated. The graffiti texts in Tartu make references to societal and cultural phenomena, and the memorable aphoristic form intrinsic to paremia, the poetic way of expression – harmony, rhymes – help, in some cases, to better convey the idea of graffiti.


  • Estonian Literary Museum, Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu, Estonia


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