"They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model."
The rat is a source of inspiration for the street artist who goes by the pseudonym Banksy. Long considered a pest and sign of urban decay, the animal features prominently in Banksy's works because of its kinship to the nature of street art – grimy, disparaged and stealthy. “Rat” also happens to be an anagram of the word “art.”
Banksy has managed to achieve international renown despite maintaining complete anonymity. While few know the real identity of the artist, he has made a name for himself with politically charged graffiti which appear as if overnight on public spaces. His art is an intersection of satire and social commentary, employing the streets as a showcase for his message.
Banksy’s rats are sometimes seen brandishing paintbrushes or spray paint cans, accompanied by phrases such as “Our time will come” and "If graffiti changed anything – it would be illegal." The connection between the rat and unsanctioned art suggests that both are irrepressible forces that are impossible to stamp out despite efforts to eradicate them.
“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn't illegal, a city where everybody could draw wherever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colors and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall—it's wet.”