Malmös gatukonstnär Dan Park berömd i USA

"Back on 20 April, 42-year-old Dan Park had spent the afternoon putting up highly provocative wanted posters of a black man named Jallow Momodou, depicting him as a slave gone missing. To quote the poster: "Our negro slave has run away!! If you know where he is or if you've seen him please call."

"For over 20 years now, Park has created assorted satire on recent events, something's that caused a bit of controversy now and then, but nothing that would get the attention that this poster now did.

A common history

This wasn't the first time the two of them had run across each other. A couple of years ago, Jallow had been on the editorial board of a magazine called Mascara, which did an interview with Dan Park about his artwork. Jallow wasn't pleased with them giving this provocative man the spotlight, even though it's far from the largest magazine that's done so — for example, in 2009, Swedish Fokus magazine did an in-depth interview with him. When Park was featured in Jallow's magazine, Jallow demanded that the rest of the editorial board should apologize and that the editor-in-chief be fired. Jallow was able to get both of his demands met at the time. Following this, every time Park and Jallow encountered each other at Malmö college where they were a student and an employee, respectively, Park would walk up to Jallow and laugh at him in his face.

That Wednesday on the 20th of April, Park had made a photo montage of the Kunta Kinte character from 1977 TV series Roots with Jallow's head replacing the original one, set against the background of Halland nation. As Park would tell the police when he was being interrogated, the poster was meant to resemble a "missing pet" ad, and the phone number provided was the office of Elinor Lavesson at Halland nation. Park usually goes about preparing these posters by printing them at any copying machine he could get his hands on, and this time he used the one at Malmö college. He printed roughly 25 copies in ISO A3 format, which he then cut in two by hand. As he left the area, he inadvertently left a couple of them behind at the machine. Meanwhile, he headed off to nearby Lund to plaster the city with his posters."

"After the charges had been filed against him, Park had showed up at a demonstration Jallow had held on 12 May and stood there laughing at him from his place in the the crowd, something that Jallow complained about to the police a few days later. This incident didn't result in any additional charges, however."

"So who is this man? Park is very open about his life on his blog, and doesn't hide the fact that he's been out of work for the last ten years and is on welfare — apart from when he's denied this last line of the Swedish social security system, which he was in March of this year, for not having applied for more than seven jobs that month. Though stating that he's a vegan and an animal rights activist, he also posts receipts of his many tobacco and beer purchases, as well as bargains he finds such as a 2-dollar shirt at his favorite discount store. He grew up with a foster family on a farm in northern Sweden and started leaving his mark on society when he first put up posters up there in 1988.

Though he's slowly become more and more of a cult figure in Swedish society for his steady stream of provocative posters, the impression you get is of a modern-day Pagliaccio, leading a miserable life, with the attention he gets being the only thing he lives for. In spite of his artwork often involving shocking political imagery, he's not declared having any political sympathies. In fact, as Fokus magazine points out, he mocks all ideologies and creeds — having ridiculed Christians, Jews as well as Muslims. This doesn't prevent him from being accused of being a "Nazi" by some left-wingers, however, and earlier this year, he was assaulted and badly beaten by four masked men.

During a police interrogation on 7 July, Park stated that Jallow ought to thank him for the attention he's given him, "since that's what they make their living from. Now they can get even more government money because they're such a sorry bunch." He likens his art to Lars Vilk's roundabout dogs and the Mohammed caricatures, explaining that he pokes fun at easy-to-offend groups in the same manner."

"The lawsuit and the media furor provides ample food for thought, as Park is a poor man without any realistic way of making himself a career in his native country, while Jallow, who's arrived to Sweden as an immigrant, has a fancy job as a communicator at Malmö college, and mass media is at his beck and call whenever he feels offended. Yet because of Jallow's race, this well-connected man can paint himself as a victim of oppression by the outcast Park, whose only weapon is the mockery inherent in his posters."

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