Home / Specials / World Cup 2014 /  World Cup: Graffiti artists capture Brazil’s mood in street art

Sao Paulo: Brazil’s modern history reserves a special place for graffiti. A walk through the big cities is sufficient to gauge the popularity of this urban art, which is perhaps just as synonymous with Brazil as football and samba.

The popular and vastly respected Brazilian grafiteiros—Portuguese for graffiti artists—twins Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo, popularly known as Os Gemeos, painted Fifa (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) partner GOL Airline’s Boeing 737 in which the Brazilian team have been travelling during the tournament.

Other Grafiteiros were roped in to paint a 4km stretch of a wall near the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo by the tournament’s corporate sponsors to try and counter the anti-World Cup mood in Brazil during the build-up to the tournament.

But it’s in the protests against the World Cup where the grafiteiros really brought out their spray cans and paint. The hard-hitting political statements made by the artists, displayed proudly for all to see, that made headlines even as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)-trained Brazilian armed forces and police cracked down on those protesting the ostentatious spending on the tournament in the face of Brazil’s increasing problems with corruption and the lack of critical and basic public services. Singer Rihanna used Sao Paulo-based artist Paulo Ito’s work depicting a hungry boy being offered a football instead of food to show her support for the protests.

Street art has existed in Brazil even before graffiti became popular, said Campinas-based grafiteiro Mirs Monstrengo. “Graffiti is an expression related to hip hop, but the idea of occupying the streets with drawings, phrases and symbols was already very strong during the dictatorship of 1960s," Monstrengo, 36, said. “Graffiti intensified as an artistic expression in the 1970s and 80s."

Sao Paulo is the birthplace of Brazilian graffiti. “In the late 70s, artists like Alex Vallauri started with day graffiti. Later in the mid-1980s, artists such as Celso Githay and Rui Amaral connected the movement with the hip hop culture prevalent here," said Monstrengo.

“Graffiti is a colourful expression against the gray, especially in Sao Paulo," said the 36-year-old Ito, who will be participating in the St.ARTDelhi, a street art festival in New Delhi next year.

Monstrengo attributes the popularity of graffiti to the fact that Brazil is a very cheerful and colourful country despite the social inequalities. “That joy is passed on in everyday life in order to live on the streets or in homes. Graffiti began here with a tone of protest, but also with the ideology of colour."

For the World Cup, the protest part took centre stage again.

“People are angry with Fifa, and street artists are part of those people," Ito said. “If I were a rapper, I’d probably write a song about it. As a street artist, I can only paint."

“Graffti is a good way to protest or to express something because street art is free. And I don’t want to sell anything, so I don’t need to obey market rules," added Monstrengo.

Though graffiti artists such as Os Gemeos have done offical work for the World Cup, the grafiteiros camp is united against its condemnation of Fifa and government spending on the World Cup. “Brothers Gemeos are extremely respected," Monstrengo said. “They were hired to do a service when they were asked to paint the aircraft as were other artists to give a facelift to that 4km wall in Sao Paulo."

The artists are Brazilian after all, and cannot but love football.

For more stories from Brazil, go to www.livemint.com/worldcup2014 --

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