‘Free NFLD’ goes down the road

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

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on November 26, 2012
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.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_