TUES – Interview Graffiti World Record in Dubai

What happens when you bring over 100 graffiti artists together to paint one wall in one city? No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Dubai saw no punch ons or turf wars last November for the city’s ambitious attempt to break the record of the World’s Longest Graffiti Scroll.

Alongside over 100 different artists from 26 countries, the Ironlak Family made international art history by trekking their team to Dubai to take part in the painting of the record breaking scroll, measuring over 2.2km long. Created in celebration of the United Arab Emirates’ 43rd year as a country, the canvas scroll stretched across Jumeriah Beach to mark the shape of the country. The team’s efforts became a globally recognized street art and graffiti event titled ‘Rehlhatna’.

VNA catches up with Ironlak’s own TUES to chat about the crossing of graffiti artists from around the globe for a collective project.

VNA: What’s the idea behind ‘Rehlhatna’ and what does the word translate to?

TUES:  The word ‘Rehlhatna’ means our journey.  The event was part of the 43rd UAE National Day celebrations, so in one sense it’s the journey of the UAE for the past 43 years. In another it’s the journey from start to finish to break this particular world record.

VNA: Interesting that an opportunity arose to break a world record with graffiti. How did it come about?

TUES: Around seven years ago I was contacted by a guy in Dubai who had the idea of breaking the world record and wanted to work with a paint company to bring his dream to life. We threw some ideas around, but he never got the funding and his idea fell over. The next year he tried again without success. Year’s later he attempted to make it happen again. We made some documents for the project and he must have been feeling like a bit of a burden as he said if it doesn’t work this time he would “set himself on fire.” I didn’t hear from him for another 18 months, so I assumed he was a pile of ash in the desert. In the end he managed to secure funding from the Crown Prince of Dubai and we finally got the ball rolling.

VNA: Wow. That sounds … challenging for him! It’s good to hear his dream became a reality. What did you paint on the scroll and why?

TUES: I was in the first section of our wall with ASKEW, EWOK, TREAZ, WANY and ENUE. We painted imagery based on the past history of Dubai. It began with an ocean section depicting rough seas and sail boats from the original arrival through to a desert scene with an old fort, (my part) and lots of camels and sand etc. The guys did an amazing job. By far the most rewarding part of the event was seeing the family pull together and support each other to get it done. I’m now even more aware just how good the bunch of blokes that we have are.

VNA: With 100 different artists, there must have been so many different styles pumped out on the one wall. How did it all manage to flow together?

TUES: It flowed in some sections better than others, but the enjoyment came from meeting the people around you and coming up with ways to link up your sections. There were a few heated moments, as always, but generally the vibe of the event was very positive.

VNA: Out of the 100 artists, who were the stand outs?

There was a lot of quality art happening. For me personally the artistic standout was the humble ZMOGK from Moscow. The guys on the front wall had their work cut out for them. I take my hat off to STASH and the crew for getting that large section done with minimal artists. Our guys did some amazing stuff. If I had to pick a section it would be between TREAZ and VANSY. DOES got the player of the day though for doing a very cool abstract themed piece and then helping others out with their top sections.

VNA: Did you ever expect that graffiti would send you traveling around the world?

TUES: As a kid I dreamed of going skateboarding in LA. I never thought spray paint would get me there, let alone the other spots I have managed to tick off.

VNA: As a city of many strict rules and regulations, it must have been a mission to keep the ‘lak team in line. Were there any close encounters?

TUES: What happens in Dubai stays in Dubai, haha. Not really though, we were all very aware of the local rules and everyone towed the line. Then again, I wasn’t around all the time and I did hear some stories involving tequila and goats …

VNA: Is it true that punishments for vandalism and graffiti in Dubai are as severe as getting your hands chopped off?

TUES: I don’t think so, maybe in other parts of the Middle East? Dubai is a very westernized city considering its location. You’d go to jail in a hurry I’d imagine. I think the event will at least offer the regional artists more opportunities in their local cities throughout the Middle East.

VNA: How would you describe the experience in one sentence?

“Hurry up and wait.” –  As with any large scale project there is a lot of down time and waiting. I think we all put on 5kg from sitting around eating hummus. Well, DYMS did at least and some of that was applied externally.

VNA: Do you think anyone will ever have a crack at defeating the record?

TUES: We actually went above and beyond with this project. I doubt anyone will put as much effort into the final product as we did. Officially you only need to do it 1.5 meters high and whatever length required. We did it 2.4m high for the bulk of it. But yes, of course. It’s human nature to challenge the past.

Check out more photos and information on the Ironlak team in Dubai here.

Shot/ Cut: Selina Miles. Additional footage by Luke Shirlaw & BERST.

Photos by Luke Shirlaw and Selina Miles.