Banksy's Jack & Jill (Police Kids) is a disturbing take on the nursery rhyme. Two smiling, otherwise ordinary-looking, kids run towards the viewer, wearing bullet-proof police vests. The prints have been interpreted variously as a comment on how over-the-top law enforcement, or on how contemporary crime, steals childhood innocence.
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Jack and Jill or Police Kids, is a 2005 print by Banksy that plays on the traditional nursery rhyme with a typically anti-establishment twist. Against a sky-blue background, two young children, depicted largely in black and white, run gleefully towards the viewer. They are laughing, carefree with summer clothes and bare limbs, and the pigtailed young girl is carrying a basket of fresh flowers.
This seemingly picturesque image is then offset by the children's bulletproof vests, with ‘POLICE’ emblazoned in capital letters across their chests. This detail provides us with the irony and dark sense of humour that we have come to expect from a Banksy print. The jarring aesthetic of children in bulletproof police jackets is at odds with the supposed freedom and innocence of childhood.
This series was produced in 2005 and was then followed by a release of 350 unsigned prints that same year. Later, the artist also produced 22 limited edition artist’s proofs on a pink background. Unlike most of his works, Banksy never graffitied Jack & Jill on the street and only released it as a screen print.
A possible metaphor for the way in which law enforcement is restricting people’s freedom, the work specifically references the eponymous 18th century English nursery rhyme, in which Jack and Jill came tumbling down the hill. Banksy’s portrayal could suggest that either children today are smothered by safety regulations, or on the other, more sinister hand, are perhaps in need of even greater protection.