Date: February 2011
Location: Los Angeles, USA
A week before the Oscars when Banksy‘s Exit Through The Gift Shop was nominated in the best Documentary category. Banksy hit up LA for a week, and left a few impactful murals.
Child Soldier, also known as Crayon Boy, appeared in Westwood, Los Angeles, in 2011 on a wall of “Urban Outfitters”, although it seems it did not last long before it was vandalized with paint. This mural showed a kid using an automatic weapon visibly an act of violence during some kind of war.
Upon closer examination, one could notice the young boy is surrounded by colorful flowers and butterflies. But the most striking part is that the traditional metal bullets from the automatic gun have been replaced by colorful crayons… A classic Banksy‘s subterfuge that obviously reminds of Love Is In The Air, Banksy‘s iconic visual, where a Molotov cocktail had been replaced by a bouquet of flowers, transforming an act of violence into an act of peace…
Violence, war, and weapons are recurring themes in Banksy‘s oeuvre, together with the image of kids as symbols of innocence. This child soldier bearing a machine gun is clearly a statement against war and violence…
This boy is presumed to be a Vietnamese soldier who is renouncing his childhood in order to fight for his life during the Vietnam war. Maybe Banksy wanted to create a contrast between what the boy is doing and what he should be doing. A contrast between innocence and violence. That is why he is surrounded by colorful flowers that he should have drawn instead of holding a gun. Banksy obviously condemns the participation of children in this kind of conflict and he transmits this feeling through rainbow bullets.
More widely, as this work is located in Los Angeles, and was done at a time when the US was breaking records in terms of violence and deaths through guns, it must be seen as a strong statement against guns and for gun control in the US…