Too Many Cocks: On the (im)possibility of graffiti re-writing colonial narratives

Graffiti observed on signs and monuments associated with Captain James Cook are used here as a departure point for considering the ways in which different narratives about Cook (e.g. authorised, monumental, vernacular, imaginary) are assigned value. Our particular focus here concerns the role that graffiti has played in producing counter-narratives to the hegemony of a particular national discourse that celebrates Cook—with a focus on a theme in Australian popular culture that strips Cook of his pants and his dignity. This leads to a consideration of how graffiti might be approached in some instances as a legitimate mode of reparative writing against colonialism and its effects. In the Australian context the intensification of activist graffiti on monuments may signal a growing community awareness of historic injustices, the surfacing of rituals of recognition and reparation, and a growing desire of the broader community to play a role in the (re)construction of public memory. Interventions of this kind could be construed as an unconventional channel through which the dialogue of democracy can take place.