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Ninth annual House of Paint festival brings together ‘four elements’ of urban culture

Khulood Al-Katta | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Khulood Al-Katta

OTTAWA’S NINTH ANNUAL House of Paint festival brought together hip-hop artists, graffiti writers, DJs, and local vendors under the Dunbar Bridge to celebrate urban arts and culture from Sept. 13–16.

The Dunbar Bridge underpass in Old Ottawa South has displayed the work of local graffiti artists for years and officially became Ottawa’s first legal graffiti wall in 2003. It serves as a fitting site for the House of Paint festival, which aims to provide an outlet for urban artists and performers to showcase their talents in different ways.

“It’s a celebration of hip-hop culture in reuniting all four elements: DJing, breaking—the dance aspect—graff writers, and MCs,” said Alex Mattar, a.k.a. DJ Zattar, co-founder of House of Paint.

Amelia Griffin, a local contemporary dancer, said the House of Paint event “is a great community initiative that brings the people of Ottawa to this festival to showcase the work they’re doing in the city.”

House of Paint’s partnership with community initiatives and projects, such as the Ottawa Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council, attracts thousands of people every year from all over North America to promote artistic expression through words, music, and dance.

Media and culture often portray graffiti in a negative light, which is why House of Paint has attracted a great deal of attention when it comes to raising awareness on the importance of graffiti as a form of expression.

“The reaction has been very positive, especially Saturday’s event, which is an all-ages event where kids can come with their families, do workshops, and learn,” said Mattar.

One of the highlights of the event was a two-hour workshop offering instruction in break-dancing, rapping, DJing, and graffiti.

Graffiti artist Maro, a returning guest of the festival who has been doing graffiti for more than eight years, stressed the importance of an event like this.

“What they do here brings a lot back to the community,” said Maro. “And it’s not just for the graffiti artists or just the people who are involved in the hip-hop culture. It’s for everyone to get an idea of what it’s all about and to try and understand it a little bit better.”

What used to be a small local event has quickly become Ottawa’s largest festival of urban arts and hip-hop culture, and it continues to grow every year.