John Lennon Wall

 

By Erin Naillon

The visitor to Prague who wanders the small streets near the river in the Malá Strana district may turn a corner and discover a long wall covered in graffiti. These days, it can be difficult to tell at first what the purpose is. Upon closer examination, the scrawls and paintings come together, and it is clear that this is a tribute to John Lennon.

Lennon Fans

Graffiti started appearing on this wall (the property of the Knights of the Maltese Cross) during the Communist era. The Beatles, and Lennon, had a wide following in the former Czechoslovakia, and when news of Lennon’s death in 1980 reached the country, some of these fans were determined to pay tribute to him. This was no small task; Western music was banned at the time, and the fans risked imprisonment for openly stating their admiration for John Lennon.

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One of the paintings on the Wall.

Graffiti

Graffiti started appearing on the wall at night, much to the discomfiture of the secret police. It was promptly whitewashed. More graffiti appeared. It was whitewashed. Pictures appeared, and messages protesting Communist rule. A guard was posted, and cameras set up. Nothing worked; not only were Lennon’s supporters determined to voice their opinions, they began having Lennon marches on December 8, the anniversary of his death. This was also perilous, as marches were imprisoned and/or beaten for taking part. Meanwhile, supporters continued to visit the square by night and paint or write on the wall; the       police were kept busy with the whitewash.

Lennon Honored

On November 17, 1989, the Velvet Revolution toppled the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. The John Lennon Wall was no longer painted over by the police. As foreign tourists came to the country, more paintings, more tributes were put on the Wall, covering the protest messages put there prior to 1989. A striking spray-paint image of Lennon with the words “All We Are Saying…” was literally defaced, and as the years roll by, it becomes less a wall paying tribute to Lennon and more a convenient place for visitors to write their names and variants of the theme, “I was here”.

On December 8, 2010, fans came to the Wall to pay tribute to Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his death. Candles, flowers, messages and other gifts were left on the icy sidewalk in front of the Wall, especially in front of the small shrine painted many years ago.

A tourist adds to the Wall.

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