LENNON WALL, PRAGUE
Anyone walking down a quiet side street in Prague might be surprised to see a flock of tourists crowded around a seemingly inconspicuous wall, but once you get nearer you can see that this particular wall is pretty special and, in fact, is an important icon in the history of the city.
Owned by the Embassy of the Knights of Malta - a religious group that traces its history back to the crusades - the wall had been a graffiti site for Czech youth since the 1960s. Soon after his assasination in 1980, a single image of John Lennon appeared on the wall alongside some of his lyrics promoting peace and freedom. In the following weeks and months more writing appeared - including slogans criticising the country's totalitarian regime. This led to the wall being 'wiped' by the communist authorities but soon enough, new messages of hope would appear. During Communist rule, Lennon's songs and the music of many other western artists was banned. Musicians and citizens could be - and often were - arrested if found listening to or playing this sort of music, but the wall became a symbolic site for freedom of speech and attracted artists and activists who opposed the regime and crimes against humanity that were occuring.
In the years since then, the wall has undergone continuous change with graffiti and new art pieces appearing to cover the previous ones. In 2019, a newly renovated wall was unveiled at the '30 Years of Freedom' celebrations. The central concept of the current design was created by a group of local and international artists headed by well-known Czech designer, Pavel Šťastný. In addition to the main image of Lennon, the wall features a motif of the World map where the word "FREEDOM" is written in 30 languages, while the remaining parts of the wall are completely covered in messages from tourists and visitors.
Although spray painting is not allowed, any visitor can add their own message using a pen, pencil or piece of chalk. As well as the many messages of support for those still being oppressed around the World, there are also numerous messages to visitors' family and friends and some inspirational quotes. The wall has now been recognised by the local government as a historic site. In contrast to the times when the authorities would wipe the graffiti from the wall, these days the local police force closely monitors the area to ensure that the main components of the mural are not destroyed or disturbed.
Whilst the image of Lennon and the accompanying colourful artwork makes it a great backdrop for taking a selfie or photograph, it's really the history and meaning behind the wall that makes it a valuable place to visit.
The Lennon Wall is located at Velkoprevorske Namesti, Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic.