When you think of graffiti, many people think of large, colorful drawings or words that young people illegally apply to walls using a spray can or marker. This form of graffiti began mid 60s of the last century in the United States. In the 70s and 80s this street art blew over to Amsterdam. The exhibition “Graffiti – New York meets Dam square’ in the Amsterdam Museum is completely dedicated to New York and Amsterdam graffiti from this period. But graffiti is actually hundreds of years old, it is a fact of life.
The word graffiti comes from the Italian verb ‘graffiare’ which means scratches. The oldest examples of graffiti date back to 40,000 BC., when cavemen left rock drawings behind in caves. But the Greeks, Romans, Vikings and Crusaders used walls frequently in the past for these kind of messages. Also in Amsterdam, this scraping is sometimes found in unexpected places.
As part of a large-scale restoration the Wester Church was surrounded in scaffolding. For construction and architectural historians of the Department of Monuments and Archaeology it was an excellent opportunity to even get close to the ‘Old Wester’. This revealed several initials, in modern graffiti known as tags. They were found on the stone of a vase on the south side with the initials AK and CN and the date of 1754. And in 1789, exactly 35 years later, DRK was applied but also TMJ in 2005.
H. v.d. Meer was a little clearer about what his name was and that also applies to a certain Adolf Meijer, who in 1820 put in his name high on the church. The best tag, however, is that of C. LUDOLF from 1820. The addition OUD 5 JAAR (5 years old) makes clear that he has not written his name himself. Probably a stonemason brought his child upstairs in the hope to show him an unforgettable view and mark this by his or her name left at a lonely height in stone behind.