Graffiti Artist Squid Talks About His Monkey King Graff4 min read

I have to admit I had not heard of the graffiti artist Squid  until I came across this image on @101GreatGoals twitter feed:

Vincent Tan (陳志遠), the billionaire Chinese-Malaysian owner of Cardiff City F.C., who is depicted here in red, about to be eaten by an irate Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King, Painted by Cardiff Graffiti Artist Squid

I also had not heard of Vincent Tan (陳志遠), the billionaire Chinese-Malaysian owner of Cardiff City F.C., who is depicted here in red, about to be eaten by what appears to be an irate Sun Wukong, aka the Monkey King. Tan, it turns out, is not a very popular figure among fans of the Bluebirds, having changed the colors of their uniforms from blue and white to red and black when he purchased the team in 2010.

The upper left corner of the mural identifies the artist as Squid. There isn’t much on him online, although a quick Google search turns up a profile on the graffiti forum Fatcap which mentions that he is affiliated with the MK crew. His name also turns up on various Cardiff graffiti sites. Eventually I was able to track down his Flickr page, which includes a photograph of the mural dated March 12, 2014.  I emailed him to see if the allusion was intentional or not:

Have you ever heard of the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong? Are you familiar with any Chinese comics or cartoons?

Yeah I’ve heard of the monkey king, I have quite a few books by Chinese tattoo artists with him in, I’ve read a few Lone Wolf and Cub comics, mostly samurai stuff which is probably Japanese now I think of it…..

For the sake of comparison, here is two-page spread showing Sun Wukong in ‘fierce mode’ (兇性) drawn by Hong Kong comic James Khoo Fuk-lung (邱福龍):

Sun Wukong in ‘fierce mode' (兇性) drawn by Hong Kong comic James Khoo Fuk-lung (邱福龍)

From the first issue of The Sage King, published July 31, 2002 by  玉皇朝.

I also asked Squid whether he felt his graffiti was racist or not:

Do you think that people in Cardiff dislike Tan because he is Chinese-Malaysian? Or do you think that people wouldn’t care where he came from as long as he didn’t mess with their team’s colors?

The graff wasn’t racially motivated at all, I couldn’t care less what race he is, he just has no respect for the real Cardiff city fans, its just a business to him.

The responses on Twitter were surprisingly mixed:

The Twitterverse responds to Squid's graffiti

A Chinese fan, @sam2burgersli, had this to say:

Chinese fan finds similarities between Squid's graffiti and Chinese comics

I thought it was interesting that he brought the conversation back to Chinese manhua, which like comics everywhere are replete with racially insensitive imagery. In fact, I think an argument could be made that because comics as a medium are forced to illustrate the essentialized (or cartoonified if you will) human body, it is almost impossible for them to avoid placing the bodies into racially motivated categories.1 At any rate, it is much more difficult for a cartoonist to avoid charges of racism than it is for a novelist or even a filmmaker, because the images are both easy to ‘read,’ and also entirely constructed, with no recourse to the (often misleading) verisimilitude of the photographed image.

One final interesting point…

In an apparent appeal to Chinese fans and investors, Tan has also changed Cardiff F.C.’s crest from this:

Original Cardiff City FC crest

To this:

New Cardiff City FC crest

He has stopped short of renaming the club however, which at least one sports journalist has suggested is due to the fact that there is a Gay Football Supporters Network League (GFSNL) team which has been playing under the name the ‘Cardiff Dragons’ since 2008 (according to their website they originally planned to play as the Sharks but decided it wasn’t ‘Welsh enough’).

Meanwhile, at least one fan and has a registered limited liability corporation under the name ‘Cardiff City Dragons’ to prevent Tan from renaming the club while another more pragmatic fan has registered ‘Cardiff Dragons Football Club Ltd’ and made it known that he would be willing to sell his company to Tan for the right price.

Squid had this to say about a potential name change:

Do you think it is very likely that Tan will change the official name Cardiff City F.C. to ‘the Dragons’?

I hope he doesn’t change the name of the club because then he will have a riot on his hands in my opinion…

Besides from your mural, do you know any other Cardiff artists who are using their art to protest the changes to the  Cardiff City F.C.?

Yeah expect more TAN OUT graff to come from Cardiff!

  1. Christopher G. Rea has written on issue in relation to to the early Anglophone comic book anthologies The China Punch (1867–1868, 1872–1876) and Puck, or the Shanghai Charivari (April 1871-November 1872) in “‘He’ll Roast All Subjects That Might Need the Roasting’: Puck and Mr. Punch in 19th-c. China.” In Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair. Hans Harder and Barbara Mittler, eds. Berlin: Springer, 2013. []
Nick Stember
Nick Stember is a translator and historian of Chinese comics and science fiction, currently working on his PhD in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. In 2016 he completed his Master of Arts in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia with his (very readable and not at all obscure) thesis on the formation of the Shanghai Manhua Society in the mid-1920s.

2 thoughts on “Graffiti Artist Squid Talks About His Monkey King Graff4 min read

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