The history of POW! WOW! Rotterdam

The origins of POW! WOW!

POW! WOW! Was founded by artist Jasper Wong in 2010 in Hong Kong. In 2011, the first edition of POW! WOW! as a week-long festival was organized in his native state Hawaii. The POW! WOW! mural festival has since grown into a global leader of the street art movement. 

Thousands of internationally renowned contemporary, street, and graffiti artists have contributed, creating large scale works of public art in 17 cities around the world. POW! WOW! can be found in American cities such as Long Beach, Worcester and Washington DC, and outside of the USA in (among others) Japan, Korea, Israel, Guam, Taiwan and Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Where does the name POW! WOW! come from?

The name POW! WOW! was inspired by the color filled pages of comic books, and the cultural gatherings of Native American tribes.

‘POW!’ being the impact that art has on a person.
‘WOW!’ being the reaction that art has on a viewer. 

Together they form ‘POW! WOW!’, which is also a Native American term that describes a gathering that celebrates culture, music and art. Several stories are known about different tribes organizing the first powwows, but the powwow as we now know them were probably organized by the War dance Societies of the Ponca and other Southern Plains Tribes. In 1923, the organization of powwows was actively countered by the America government, when American congressmen tried to destroy the culture of the tribes. Several tribes went on to organize secret powwows to keep the phenomenon alive. In current days, powwows are once again organized throughout the year. To learn more about the powwows of Native American people, visit www.powwows.com.

POW! WOW! Hawaii

POW! WOW! Hawaii takes place every year during Valentine’s Day week in February in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu, and brings over a hundred international and local artists together to create murals and other forms of art. The 2017 edition was visited by a small team representing Rewriters010, a street art platform, curator and production house from Rotterdam founded by Hiphop in je Smoel

In Hawaii they met the team behind POW! WOW! Worldwide, who had been hoping to expand the festival to a European city. Since the Rewriters010 team had been dreaming of a street art festival in their own city, they decided to collaborate and make these dreams a reality.

The first POW! WOW! Rotterdam

In 2018 the first POW! WOW! Rotterdam took place in the M4H area, also know as Merwe-Vierhaven. The old docks of Rotterdam became host to the very fist European edition of the worldwide POW! WOW! festival, presenting a wide variety of mural art, pop-up exhibitions, sports events and musical performances. 

POW! WOW! Rotterdam also premiered the 20 VANS, 30 CANS van and truck painting event. This part of the festival was actually conceived because the organization had more artists than they had wall space for. However, because it turned out to be so much fun, they decided to host t again after the festival moved to the Afrikaanderwijk neighborhood. It has become a fixture of POW! WOW! Rotterdam ever since.

The power of street art

POW! WOW! is all about bringing people together through arts and culture. The streets belong to the people living and working there, and all people deserve beautiful and thought-provoking things equally. Art on walls and in public space is there to be enjoyed by everyone, rather than being surrounded by walls, accessible only for a chosen few. This is why we believe so strongly in the power of street art.

Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of our festival does not feature most of our regular festivities. But public art will always be the heart of POW! WOW! Rotterdam, and we are glad you are here to keep it beating with us. Please enjoy the art responsibly with regards to your own safety and that of those around you. See you next year!