A particular type of graffiti has appeared on walls, vans, and homes all over Malta, turning neighbourhoods shabby and worrying concerned residents.
The tag, which seems to read “ajde naz” or “ovde naz”, has cropped up everywhere from Mellieħa to Valletta to Swieqi on public property such as phones boxes, the Regional Road tunnel, parts of the Coast Road and areas along Malta’s beaches and nature reserves.
One person even reported that the tag was seen on a presepju in a roundabout over the Christmas holidays.
The sheer abundance of these specific graffiti tags have led many people to wonder: what is the graffiti saying exactly, and what does it mean?
A number of theories have been put forward – all in relation to Serbia, though no one has any concrete evidence
One Serbian man told Lovin Malta that the tag stemmed from the Serbian musician and gangster rapper 90 Naz
“What’s written is ‘Here is Naz’, who is a rapper from the ghetto,” the man said. “I think kids are just writing that because he posted some new songs.”
When asked if Naz himself was in Malta, the man laughed and said: “No no, he is without a passport.”
Another Serbian man told Lovin Malta that he believed that the tags were part of a Serbian gang turf war
However, Dr Predrag Andrejević, a surgeon and the President of the Maltese-Serbian community, said he didn’t think that was the case
“This type of writing was popular in my time,” Dr Andrejević. “Graffiti was popular in Belgrade in the late ‘80s, in that style, obviously these are a bit more colourful. But no, it doesn’t look like gang graffiti, unless they are somebody who wants to show who it is and wants the gangs to go back. The graffiti does not look aggressive, it is not written in an angry style, even if you look at the words, they are written relatively nicely with curves,” he said.
“I think what could be written is ‘ajde’ – that means ‘ejja’ or ‘let’s go’. That’s what it looks like to me, if it is in Serbian. ‘Naz’ could be an abbreviation of ‘nazad’, which means ‘back’, so together it means ‘let’s go back,” Dr Andrejevic said.
When asked if he thought if it was a Serbian graffiti artist, his answer was clear
“Or somebody who is attempting to be a graffiti artist – if it’s even in Serbian. But if it’s in Serbian, that’s what it means,” he said.
As far as the proliferation of the tags around Malta, Dr Andrejevic wasn’t surprised.
“In Belgrade, they used to write their tags wherever they could of course, because it was forbidden, and they would do it when no one sees them basically – write quickly, then run away,” he said.
The Swieqi Council has already filed a police report as the graffiti increases
Noel Muscat, Swieqi’s mayor, told the Times of Malta that Swieqi was being targeted by graffiti vandals, calling for more frequent patrols in the area. He also said that some council-owned properties such as street planters had needed to be scrubbed clean since the tags appeared.
Whether it’s a marketing campaign for a Serbian gangster rapper, the beginnings of a Serbian gang turf war, or just some bored youths, people all over the island are taking notice of the the notorious tags.
Questions sent to the Malta Police Force have remained unanswered at the time of publishing