When James Toler [a 29-year army veteran and helicopter pilot] left the command center after his first stint in Kandahar, he says the newly constructed walls were quite plain – a few odd spray-painted, army-approved company insignias, nothing more.
Yet as he began to come and go over the decade that followed, the officer noticed the city’s bland, bullet-riddled walls began to transform into an urban canvas.
“These graffiti tags just started popping up more and more, and soon it got to the point where some of the walls had as many as 20 per segment,” he explains.
“Somewhere along the way from that acceptable practice of putting up the logos of a particular motor pool, it turned into real street taggers – the true artists – coming out at night and showing just how good they really were.”
In order to gather art materials, for example, they salvage excess green and sand-colored paint from tank maintenance crews. Then, to reproduce a plethora of WWII-era pin-ups and emotive pop-culture icons, the troops trim out stencils using knives and the odd bit of cardboard they may come across.