Graffiti is one of the most controversial art forms out there since it defaces public property – but what if graffiti artists actually cleaned up the walls they tagged up by etching their sketches into the grime that already exists on them? The delightful process, called reverse graffiti or “scrubbing” isn’t new – we’ve written about it here and here before – but awesome examples of it keep popping up. Case in point: one band of students in Durban, South Africa who’ve been gracing spaces with works of the subversive street art form in their area.

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Inspired by the works of Paul Curtis (a reverse graffiti pioneer), South African student Martin Pace decided to “scrub” the walls of his own town. While others have used giant stencils and high-pressure water hoses to “wash” reverse images onto, or technically off of their canvases, Pace decided to use a metal scrubbing brush on his first project – a filthy freeway wall. The result was a charming pictorial timeline of Westville’s (the town where the wall is) architecture.

Pace eventually formed a gang of reverse taggers with his friends Stathi Kongianos, JP Jordaan and Nick Ferreira called Dutch Ink. The bands triumphs include a beautiful mural of trees on a Durban North wall as well as a giant “Sardine Run” (featuring a school of stencilled fish) swimming across a city bridge.

The best thing about reverse graffiti is that it’s not illegal! Think about it – you can’t really arrest someone for cleaning up city surfaces. Of this fact, Pace said, “That’s the beauty of the whole project. We have had council guys in police cars stop us in the middle of the day while we are working and asking us if we have been commissioned to do this and when we answered no, they gave us thumbs up and said keep doing what you are doing.”

Via Neil Coppen and Wooster Collective