Banksy visited New Orleans, three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, in August 2008. The artist used the still-tattered urban fabric of New Orleans as an eloquent backdrop for his critiques of the situation and left around 15 stencils. Most of them have long disappeared but are still present in so many ways.
Banksy’s works encapsulated sympathy, anger and above all humor, reacting accusingly to the inadequate aid and slow subsequent clean-up operations there.
This is where Banksy created the now iconic Nola.
Umbrella Girl aka Nola
“Some of the things that are supposed to protect us, can also harm us.”
NOLA portrays a young girl in black and white, in a dress beneath a black umbrella, holding one hand out and feeling the rain that is pouring down...
Nola, New Orleans, 2008
This striking image of a girl being drenched by rain from inside of her umbrella is in reference to the devastating event of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which have been amplified by failure of the flood defenses that had been designed to protect the citizens from such a disaster. Naturally, an umbrella is designed to keep the individual using it dry and protected from the elements.
The fact that the rain is falling not from the sky but instead from the inside of the umbrella is Banksy‘s way of suggesting to the viewer that very things (or institutions) that were created and designed to protect us can, at times, do quite the opposite – a scathing indictment of FEMA and the government’s response to protect and help the people directly affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Banksy also released Nola as a screen-print on paper as a limited edition of 289 prints with White Rain. The edition size of 289 relates to the age of the city of New Orleans where this visual first appeared.
Nola (White Rain), 2008
Screen-print in colors on archival paper
76×56 cm (30 x 22 inches)
Other Nola colorways were released thereafter in Grey Rain, then in Orange Rain and Yellow Rain. Banksy also released a rare set of Nola Artist’s Proof editions of 66 that came in 6 unique variations of Multicolor Rain, reserved for VIP collectors. All Nola prints are signed and numbered by the artist.
Banksy also painted Abraham Lincoln as a homeless man, pushing a trolley full of goods. The building upon which Banksy had painted his image of Lincoln has since been demolished to make way for a healthcare facility. This visual was located on South Derbigny Street, near Canal Street. Obviously the choice of Lincoln is not any accident…
Lincoln was the great figurehead of the emancipation movement, liberating the slaves of the Southern states—many of whose descendants remain at a socio-economic disadvantage throughout America. During Hurricane Katrina, that legacy of structural discrimination was felt all the more keenly as the poorer black areas of New Orleans suffered the greatest losses when the levee broke.
Abraham Lincoln, New Orleans, August 2008
Depicting Lincoln walking the streets, pushing his cart, seemingly highlighted the shortcomings of his political descendants. After all, Lincoln, like the Bush administration on whose watch Katrina hit, was a Republican. In these distorted, dystopian depictions, the conundrums provided by historical hindsight are explored to different effect, with Banksy presenting a Lincoln who is less an emancipator or a martyr and more an ectoplasmic boogieman.
Furthermore, Lincoln was one of the first US Presidents to make use of photography in order to promote himself. In the years leading up to his first presidential election, photographs were disseminated to give him a more human aspect, countering rumors of his unusual height and supposed ugliness. Lincoln’s success in making himself instantly recognizable, combined with his assassination, resulted in a strong pictorial legacy. This in turn makes Lincoln all the more apt as a subject for Bansky’s ghost-train-style interventions. The iconic image has been converted, with Banksy deflating the reverence that often surrounds Lincoln’s legacy, and instead showing him as a comical ghoul.
Grey Ghost & Graffiti Remover
“I came to New Orleans to do battle with the Gray Ghost,
a notorious vigilante who’s been systematically painting over any graffiti he can find
with the same shade of grey paint since 1997.”
“Consequently he’s done more damage to the culture of the city
than any section five hurricane could ever hope to achieve.”
Two of Banksy’s stencils depicted anti-graffiti activists as villains.
Grey Ghost features some kind of a graffiti eradicator painting over a beautiful and colorful flower with some dull grey paint.
On another mural, the Graffiti Remover is busy rolling gray paint over a helpless and panic-stricken stick figure…
I Must Not Copy What I See On The Simpsons
Banksy‘s charming take on The Simpsons cartoon at the corner of St. Bernard Avenue and N. Robertson Street was covered with plywood before it could be defaced. A few years after Banksy will actually make some appearance in one episode of The Simpsons.
One of Banksy‘s most politically pointed murals was the Patriot on St. Claude Avenue near Jourdan Street in the Lower 9th Ward. The image of an old man in a rocker was stenciled over an existing NO LOITERING sign.
“I looked out the window of the taxi on the drive into New Orleans and remarked ‘There’s still so much devastation – I can’t believe they haven’t cleaned this mess up’to which the driver stared at me and said ‘This part of the city wasn’t affected by the hurricane – its always looked like this.”
Child With Life Preserver
The child using a life preserver as a tire swing near the corner of Claiborne Avenue and Reynes Street in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans was one of Banksy‘s simplest and most poignant images. It was soon defaced with red paint.
Child With Kite Fridge
Banksy left also a poignant mural depicting a kid with a refrigerator kite. Refrigerators were a symbol of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flood that devastated the city. Child with Kite Fridge is located on McShane Place (St. Claude Avenue) and St. Anthony Street.