‘Free NFLD’ goes down the road

Steve Bartlett
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Patriotic graffiti popping up ‘quite a lot’ in Canada’s largest city

When Lynn Kuo tweeted a pic of this last week, she wrote, “The Newfoundland graffiti continues in downtown Toronto.” — Lynn Kuo photo

Newfoundland’s independent spirit appears to be surging in Toronto.

“Free NFLD” graffiti is popping up throughout that city’s downtown.

“I think it’s kind of cool to see it, as a Newfoundlander,” says Lynn Kuo, who has posted pics of the graffiti on social media.

“It just kind of reinforces that there’s a lot of us here. It’s spirit-boosting.”

Kuo, assistant concert master with the National Ballet Orchestra and a freelance violinist with similar entities, first saw the Newfoundland graffiti at her train station and “got kind of excited.”

She then started seeing more of it and says it’s now quite prevalent.

“I have no idea what’s going on, but it’s been popping up quite a lot actually,” says the Stephenville-born Kuo, who was raised there and in St. John’s.

“Free NFLD” is common on T-shirts, stickers and other merchandise in this province, and is generally considered a statement of Newfoundland pride and independence.

Living Planet T-Shirts, which sells  Free NFLD gear, has a section about the phrase on its website.

It says the origins are not clear, but “the first and most general is the strong sense of independence felt by many Newfoundlanders.”

The site suggests the feeling grew from centuries of people eking out a living on their own.

It says a resurgence of that spirit started with graffiti on a wall between George Street and Duckworth Street — a black map of Newfoundland with “Free NFLD” in bright red.

From that, Living Planet’s site says, comic artist Wallace Ryan tweaked it and his version is used on the  T-shirts and swag.

It’s doubtful the graffiti in Toronto will make such an impact and result in the masses wearing “Free NFLD” hoodies, but Kuo suggests it doesn’t have to.

“We’ve already taken over Toronto, infiltrated it in a very subversive way,” she jokes.

Whatever the rationale or reason by the “Free NFLD” graffiti in Toronto, it is catching some eyes, including photographer Duncan  McLaren’s.

He shot a tag on a Wellesley subway station and posted the image on his website.

“I noticed this ‘Free NFLD’ and I said to myself,

‘That’s interesting. I haven’t seen that before,’” McLaren says.

He’s since noticed two other examples of the same graffiti, and he suspects it’s the same person.

Kuo, who performed in Newfoundland a lot this summer and fall, figures that person is starting to have a following and “is slowly getting famous.”

Imagine how famous the Toronto tagger would be back in Newfoundland.


Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: Living Planet, National Ballet Orchestra

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Toronto, Canada Stephenville George Street Duckworth Street Wellesley

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Recent comments

  • Wallace Ryan
    December 02, 2012 - 11:34

    The "FREE NFLD" on George Street was actually taken from a poster I did myself, that circulated in St. John's in the early 80's long before the graffiti appeared. It also appeared in a comic strip I did for the Muse called "Confederation Follies". So, no, the graffitti was a homage to my slogan and not the other way around. Check out the Wikipedia entry, which is more accurate and factual about the origin of the phrase. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Newfoundland

  • jimbo
    November 27, 2012 - 00:03

    free nfld with purchase of beverage

  • newfoundlander
    November 26, 2012 - 20:54

    " A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. " toronto is a hole.. fast paced smelly dirty cold mean lol im going back to NF!! 10 years was too long to be away i cant wait to get back to fresh air and friendly faces

  • mifflinmanual
    November 26, 2012 - 14:20

    Newfoundland and Labrador NO PRICE TAGS ON THE DOORS OF NEWFOUNDLAND !

  • hockeyfan
    November 26, 2012 - 10:13

    Let's have Labrador as their own province with no more handouts from the Government and Newfoundland can stay with Canada. Problem solved.

    • W McLean
      November 26, 2012 - 11:24

      Which handouts would those be?

  • lol
    November 26, 2012 - 10:03

    the guy wouldn't be famous in Newfoundland, that's why he moved to Toronto. I know one guy who takes credit for most of these tags as he's moved there recently. Free Newfoundland indeed. Unfortunately there's no one here that has a clue how to run a province, let alone a country. Whatever. I'm a Newfoundlander, not a Canadian. At least until World Hockey starts up.

  • saelcove
    November 26, 2012 - 09:30

    Free from what and i do not need a tee shirt to tell me who i am

  • Stick in the mud
    November 26, 2012 - 07:27

    I really think it's unwise to glorify vandalism. Imagine what the downtown would look like with another tagger on the loose. Property owners are already having a hard enough time. The tagger is breaking the law.

    • AGG
      November 26, 2012 - 10:02

      Business spends thousands of $$$ to remove graffiti that some dirtbag did with a $5 can of paint. Find them and make them remove it. The stores know who buys paint regularly.

  • Dean
    November 26, 2012 - 06:16

    I agree 100%, free Labrador from Nfld.

    • Ash
      November 26, 2012 - 20:48

      theres no price tags on the doors of newfoundland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVODb56sWsU the rest of the world really needs to learn from newfies! simple living.. friendly.. hilarious! we'd give the shirt off our back to a neighbor in need even if it was our only one.. my coworker whos from vancouver says "newfies, best dam ppl in da world by' lol "