Banksy? Maybe I saw him
Maybe I saw Banksy in person.
Let’s start from the beginning. From 28th to 30th April I was guest at Banksy’s hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine, named The Walled Off and known as the hotel with the worst view in the world. This place is the new provocation of the anonymous British artist, first because it is organized to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour declaration, the document with which UK promised the same land to both Israelis and Palestinians, stating a conflict that lasts up until today, and second because it attracts Banksy’s fans in a place that is all but touristic: attached to the wall that separates Israel and Palestine, in the most ruined part of Bethlehem, therefore fans can see with their eyes what the situation actually is.
As I said, I spent two nights and three days there (here you can watch my exclusive interview with the General Manager of The Walled Off, Mr. Wisam Salsaa) and then I saw him: a tall, thin white man, more or less in his sixties, with long wavy white hair, who had nothing to do with all the people that were there, tourists and hotel workers. He came on the 29th with a taxi with Israeli plate, a white Mercedes, that waited for him. He made a quick inspection and then went away with the same car. I said that he had nothing to do with people that were there: there were tourists from all over the world, with typical tourists clothes, you know what I mean, practical and standard, and local staff, most of them with a nice uniform. He had jeans trousers and a black suit jacket with its sleeves pulled up to elbows. If he wasn’t Banksy, for sure was at least one of his closest collaborators.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t’ take a photo, because he stayed very little and I didn’t have my smartphone with me.
This episode make me think about Elena Ferrante, the very famous and anonymous Italian writer, whom real identity was discovered last October by the Italian journalist Claudio Gatti after a very long investigative research (her real name is Anita Raja). Gatti was accused to have unnecessarily damaged Ferrante’s mystery, but in a second article he defended himself and said, among other things, that her fans have the right to know the truth, because she had been ambiguous asking for anonymity and at the same time granting interviews and writing a so-called autobiographical book, La frantumaglia, that was not completely sincere.
Just like Elena Ferrante, do people have the right to know who Banksy really is? The reasons to discover his identity are many, and licit curiosity is only the last one: the first, indeed, is that his last message, with The Walled Off Hotel, is also very political and not only a generical peace message, a theme that artists generally love. In the museum set up inside the hotel he exposes clearly his ideas on the conflict, the wall and people who, in his opinion, are responsible of this situation (he is generically pro Palestine and against Netanyahu, but also if his ideas would have been opposite, that wouldn’t have changed the point).
Basically, do his fans have the right to know who is the person beside Banksy’s tag who is sharing anonymously precise political ideas? It’s hard to answer this question. In any case, now Banksy makes very complex art projects, like Dismaland or The Walled Off, that require renting plots of land and buildings, buying many different raw material, employing experts and workers, in other words a lot of footprints: it wouldn’t be that difficult to investigate and find him.
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