Graffiti on Christmas

Christmas in São Paulo was different than I expected. I spent the day with Pixação artist Yago Assunção de Souza’s family. But the holiday here was less of a family affair and more like a giant block party, at least in Yago’s part of town. People danced in the street and roamed freely from house to house, sharing food, drinks and laughter.

After meeting family and friends, we walked up the block to Nilson Matias’ home, where Yago and Nilson mixed paint and started a full-scale painting. They both elaborately signed their nicknames while sipping beers and smoking cigarettes. Eventually, they hope to paint the entire wall above Nilson’s house, in an attempt to beautify the neighborhood.

After about two hours of painting, the wall is nearly finished.

After about two hours of painting, the wall is nearly finished.

We then left Nilson’s house and headed to a number different locations, where tagging was a bit more dangerous. In a dress and sandals, I hopped fences and climbed buildings, trying to keep up with the boys.

 

I’m not sure whether or not I’ll continue following Yago’s story, as I started another piece on trash collection today. Please check back for updates!

Until next time,

Cara Wilwerding.

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No War

Yesterday was an adventure. Andrew and I traveled to East São Paulo to hang out with a group of Pixação artists that go by the collective name “No War.” Pixação is a unique form of graffiti native to Brazil (better known as tagging in the U.S.).

While I was wary of starting this story without a translator, it worked in our favor. The language barrier made it surprisingly easier to bond with 24-year-old Leonardo Tadeu, his 15-year-old wife, Ingrid and their 4-month-old daughter, Kyara.

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The entire group was extremely hospitable. After a spending a few hours with the family and enjoying a home-cooked lunch, Leo and his friends prepared to paint.

Leo points out and explains common Pixação characters.

Leo points out and explains common Pixação characters.

Yago Assunção de Souza spray paints a wall on his friend's roof.

Yago Assunção de Souza spray paints a wall on his friend’s roof while waiting to go to a larger painting site.

The group hangs out, drinking beer and smoking, before going out to paint.

The group hangs out, drinking beer and smoking, before going out to paint.

While it’s not considered a favela or slum, Leo and his friends live in one of São Paulo’s rougher neighborhoods. I was warned to be cautious of crime and violence, but I didn’t experience anything like that. Rather, I saw how friends in such communities support each other, make each other laugh and bond over a common interest. I can’t wait to experience more.

Leo mixes purple dye with a white base paint.

Leo mixes purple dye with a white base paint.

Vinicius Amorin smokes a joint while waiting for his turn to paint.

Vinicius Amorin smokes a joint while waiting for his turn to paint.

Until next time,

Cara Wilwerding

Working without a translator

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Today I tagged along with Cara as she went to spend the day with a group of people who tag phrases and symbols around São Paulo.

After a metro/train ride of about an hour we arrived in a tiny, more run-down neighborhood of São Paulo than I’ve seen to this point. Favelas, rolling hills of dilapidated, stacked houses, surrounded the area.

This community likes to drink, and they like to smoke marijuana. “Legalize” was tagged multiple places in the neighborhood, and tiny, one room bars, could be found up and down almost every block. Most were packed with people in the midafternoon – although it was a Sunday, so that could’ve been a big influence.

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We spent the first few hours at the home of our main contact, Leo. He lived in the house seen below with his wife and daughter. This frame shows the kitchen/dining room, one of the two rooms in the house, with the door to the bathroom on the left and the entryway, where there is access to other apartments, on the right. They made Cara and I lunch before they planned on heading out to do some tagging.

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The group spent a little time scoping out an area to tag before they got to painting. On the trip, they rolled a joint and smoked it when they arrived at the location.

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Sometimes, working without a translator is great. It’s always possible to communicate through a few basic words I’ve learned in Portuguese, and hand gestures can usually take care of the rest.

Most importantly, I’ve found that it helps subjects ignore you. When you can’t directly hold a normal conversation, the talking between the subject and me dies down quite a bit and I’m able to make pictures without worrying about inserting myself into the situation. This group was great about letting me do what I needed to do while they did what they needed to do.

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As you can see, they’ve tagged all over. According to the group, run-ins with the police happen somewhat frequently.

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I’m not sure if I’ll have time to get back to this community again due to work on the motoboy story, but I hope I can at least get back out once more.

They warmly welcomed me and showed me their passion, and I feel a renewed sense of appreciation each time someone does that for me.

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Thanks for looking.

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