A “bin chicken” redemption

Kevin Murray

1 March 2024

Napam is a street artist who lends her unique migrant perspective to walls for everyone to enjoy.

Strolling along a quaint side street in the vibrant Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, you encounter a striking sight: a leopard lithely adorning the wall of a Victorian house. As you turn the corner, you are met with the object of its pursuit: a bird mockingly referred to as a “bin chicken.” The juxtaposition is intriguing.

Napam was born in Antwerp to a Belgian mother and a Vietnamese father. Her journey in street art began through a community program, but she soon realised that opportunities were limited in Belgium. After relocating to Brunswick, she sought to unleash her creativity and posted a request on a local Facebook group for a blank wall to serve as her canvas. A local, Emilie, a painter from France, generously offered her grey wall, providing Napam with complete creative freedom.

The engagement with the community and the street itself was an aspect of her art that Napam cherished. She found joy in the reactions of passersby, who would observe her work in progress and offer their interpretations. Additionally, she aimed to make a statement through her art, particularly with the depiction of the “bin chicken” bird.

“I was in Sydney for three months and I saw all these birds that I thought were so pretty. Then someone told me, ‘Oh no, those are ugly, birds. We call them “bin chickens”. I was like, why they’re so beautiful. They reminded me of ancient Egypt.”

Despite facing opposition from some local street artists who disapproved of purely decorative murals, Napam remained steadfast in her commitment to brightening and enlivening public spaces.

Notably, Napam’s decision to portray the bird picking a flower instead of its typical prey was a deliberate choice to honour its beauty and challenge preconceived notions. Her art is not just about aesthetics; it carries meaning and seeks to provoke thought.

While some artists may aspire to showcase their work in traditional galleries, Napam finds fulfilment in being part of the neighbourhood’s living gallery. She values the spontaneous interactions and connections that arise from sharing her art in public spaces, embracing the diverse audience that such settings attract.

“The street of the neighbourhood, that is your gallery. Every day people who won’t walk into an exhibition will see your mural.”

The house owner Emilie, finds the mural continues to connect her to the rest of her street:

“We have a nature strip and when I do a bit of gardening in front of the house, people stop by and tell me, “Ah, I really like your leopard.”

As a result, she now knows more of her neighbours and, critically, the work has not been tagged.

Napam’s journey as a street artist is a testament to her commitment to community engagement and challenging perceptions through art. Her story exemplifies the power of street art to spark conversations and foster connections within urban environments.

Follow @napamgraff



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