The Black Hand

by Ana Marta Laranjeira



His art has been covering the streets of Tehran but the face behind it remains a mystery. His identity lays on two words – Black Hand – and he´s as talented as he is controversial.

Relying on the stencil as his weapon of choice, this is a popular tool amongst graffiti artists since it is an easy way to assure good results on the scene (as the biggest part of the work is done previously, while creating the stencil). However, more importantly than is the fact that it allows the graffitti to be done is a relatively short time, crucial if one is trying to protect his/her identity – certainly the case for the Black Hand – allowing a swift escape afterwards.

Currently, Iran does not have any laws regarding graffiti which means that, in reality, it’s not illegal. Still, the danger lies exactly there. Taking into account that there are no regulations, the authorities have the opportunity to accuse one of anything that they find convenient at that moment. The uncertainty is the most dangerous factor, especially for someone who does what Black Hand has been doing. His art portrays what is wrong in the society (with greater emphasis on the Iran’s current affairs) and sends defying messages regarding politics, human rights and social matters. It goes without saying that this is something not desirable by the country’s Government.

On one of his pieces (pictured below) we can see what it looks like an auction for a man’s kidneys – represented on the red painting. Now, before you start trying really hard to interpret the philosophical meaning behind it this image, I will let you know straight away that this illustration is more literal than you may think. Iran is the only country in the world where it is perfectly legal for someone to sell their own kidneys, “as they please”, with terrible consequences on organ trade. That fact is most definitely not easily accepted by the artist and his graffiti was certainly not accepted by the police, having been removed shortly after.







With pieces like these, the man behind the art does not want to erupt some controversy just for the sake of it. It is all about spreading a message, informing the public and, ultimately, empowering the people and what better place to diffuse such raw knowledge than on the walls of the streets that belong to all of the citizens. The world is now a global village where everything is connected, allowing his artistry to reach people all over the world. One shot of a camera transforms such an ephemeral art – with the constant efforts by the authorities to eliminate them – eternal, and a “share” on a social network gives rise to a world-wide debate.

You can find Black Hand on Facebook where he showcases his work. Out of experience, I can say that investigating what is behind each one of his graffiti is quite a worthwhile experience.