When you think of senior citizens, entering their autumnal years and giving up work, what comes to mind? Intrepid travellers, who are finally going on that round-the-world-trip? Your Uncle Rupert who has decided to go back to university to get a Masters degree? Or perhaps your Aunt Clare who is going to start her fifth career as a florist. We found this short film that tells the story of a different kind of pensioner. She’s decided to use her retirement years to become a graffiti artist.
Irmela Mensah-Schramm is a 71-year-old Berliner. She makes it her day-to-day business to address hate messages sprayed on walls by removing and altering them with her own tagging style. On any given day she’ll transform a swastika with a flick of her spraypaint can into a heart-shaped symbol of love, or else she will use nail varnish remover to peel away offensive hate speech stickered on walls and lampposts.
This Big Story clip takes a deeper look at what drives this graffiti grandma. “After visiting a concentration camp for the first time, Schramm was moved to do her part to build a better future. Today, she’s removed over 77,500 neo-Nazi stickers all over Germany, and she has no intentions of stopping.”
What is so interesting about Irmela’s story is that she takes the societal expectation of what old people do and breaks the stereotypes of age and aging. This short clip is a vignette of someone who came to a realisation, a moment of revelation about who she was and what she stood for. Coming face-to-face with one of the worst crimes against humanity in modern times transformed her thinking and her beliefs. She reached a decision that would alter her daily life. “I have to be honest,” says Irmela “when I come after knowing that I am able to remove these things then I feel good again”.