Graffiti mural, made by artist Criola, represents symbols of Afro-Brazilian culture
Criola mural on the gable of the Chiquito Lopes building was promoted by the Urban Art Circuit (CURA) in 2018. Photo: Service Area

Ao leaving the airport and heading to the city center of Belo Horizonte, on Av. Presidente Antônio Carlos, a building in the distance draws attention. The vibrant colors of a 1365 m mural², on the gable of the Chiquito Lopes building, are visible from a great distance, and from several points in the center the graffiti can be seen perfectly. Its about Astral Hybrid – Brazilian Guardian, work produced by Criola in 2018, during one of the editions of the Urban Art Circuit of Belo Horizonte (CARE). 

Today, a legal dispute decides whether or not the mural should remain in the building. One of the residents is against the maintenance of the painting and, since its production, demands its erasure. This week, the process became public knowledge, generating discussions beyond the building. 

From the petition, created by CURA in defense of the work, to prejudiced comments on the theme and iconography of the mural, the case raises discussions about the limits between public and private interests and shows us, once again, explicit demonstrations of racism on social media. 

The artist Criola, on a scaffold, painting the gable of the Chiquito Lopes building in a shade of yellow
In 2018, the artist Criola was one of the participants of CURA BH and dedicated herself to the production of a mural on the gable of the Chiquito Lopes building. Photo: Service Area

Between scaffolding and paint

In 2018, Criola participated in CURA. THE artist Minas Gerais – currently responsible for murals in several cities in Brazil and in Paris –, was intended for the gable of the Chiquito Lopes building, on Rua São Paulo, downtown Belo Horizonte. 

Neivaldo Ramos, the building's manager, says that the festival's proposal came about in September 2018. “We had doubts at first, because the gable was quite degraded, due to weather events. Preservation and conservation demanded necessary works, whose resources were high,” he explains. However, the festival committed itself to recovering the blind facade of the building, exempting residents from the cost of the renovation. As a result, the proposal was taken to the Condominium Advisory Board and unanimously approved. Then, it was communicated to the other residents. “At first, our main interest was the physical recovery of the gable; but the idea of ​​participating in the project – already known in the city from previous versions – excited everyone, both for its visibility and appreciation, and for participating in an event of a cultural nature”, says Neivaldo. 

In October 2018, the work began, and it was then that a resident opposed the continuation of the mural. Faced with the situation, the manager requested an Assembly, in which 55 of the 56 residents expressed themselves in favor of the continuity of the mural. Also in 2018, the dissatisfied owner filed a lawsuit against the building, so that the work could be interrupted. Currently, the same process concerns the erasure of the mural.

The urban art festival, as well as Criola, opposes the erasure of the work. “It's a public mural, facing the street, not inside the building, or inside the resident's apartment. These are very strange times in which we can be surprised by a decision that is unfavorable to the work and we feel that silence is no longer appropriate. That's why we made the decision to publicize this process”, explains Juliana Flores, one of the creators of CURA.

So while the process has been around for almost two years, it was in the last week that it became widely known. The Urban Art Circuit released a petition  in defense of the mural (follow here) and explained the case on social media. “Our idea is to attach the petition to the case file, because our argument is that it is a public work of art. This work is now from the city of Belo Horizonte. So, what we want to show the judge is that the public interest must prevail over the private one”, defends Juliana Flores.

Panoramic photo of downtown BH, which shows some painted gables in the CURA editions, including the work of Criola
CURA is the largest public art festival in Minas Gerais. In 2020, the event reached its 5th edition, bringing together 18 works of art on facades and gables, including the tallest mural painted by a woman in Latin America, at 56 meters high. Photo: Service Area

In conversation with the landlord, the resident who filed the lawsuit claims that the work is a “decoration of dubious taste” and part of the Law No. 4591 / 1964, in the defense that the change in the façade should be a unanimous consensus among the residents. On the other hand, the defense of the work is based on the Civil Code of 2002 and in the majority vote on the maintenance of the mural (provided for in art. 1341). However, for Criola, the artist responsible for the work, the result goes beyond a simple return to the gray painting of the wall. In line with the rest of her production, the work brings references to Afro-Brazilian and indigenous culture and, therefore, for the muralist, its erasure has a symbolic factor: “They kill us physically and they kill us symbolically through the erasure of our culture. and everything that revolves around it. Aesthetic taste is a cultural and social construction that is massively shaped by the colonizer's imagination.

Who is it Astral Hybrid – Brazilian Guardian?

“This mural seeks to establish in the middle of the city the memory of our Afro-Indian roots. We are immersed in a crisis as a society that is both external and internal. The habits that got us here will not take us very far, we are heading towards self-extermination”, defends the artist. The work is part of the series of graffiti Astral Hybrid, in which Criola is dedicated to portraying the “hybrid”, multidimensional characters who, by honoring nature and animals, mimic them, and who are part of a symbolic world, where the dispute for superiority (between humans and nature, between genders and ethnicities ) has already been surpassed.  

With the current events related to the degradation of the environment and violence (moral and physical) against minorities, the work is increasingly current and the theme is extremely important. “Ancestral peoples have a wisdom totally rooted in communion with nature, feeling part of it and not sucking everything it offers us. In addition, this mural [from the Chiquito Lopes building] addresses the rescue of the feminine, honoring women as faithful holders of the portal that allows us to arrive on planet Earth. It is no wonder that both women and Afro-indigenous peoples have been massacred, society needs to heal from this colonizing selfishness in thinking that everything that differs from itself needs to be dominated”, concludes Criola.   

In the midst of social networks

It was these symbologies and reflections that generated an uproar on social media and the case became public. While the artist’s Instagram profile can be read in support of her comments and in defense of the mural, in the news comments and on the social networks of journalistic vehicles, another type of manifestation is also common: “The resident is right not to want a painting with heavy energy like that”, “Yes, this demonic work has to be erased!!!!”, “Drawing of the DEMON”, “This drawing is horrible, nothing to do with culture”, “It really looks like an image of a macumba center . Horrible”. 

For Juliana Flores and Criola, these opinions have a perceptible racist foundation, stemming from a prejudice against religions of African origin. “It is the opinion of a minority and, unfortunately, I think it is very much linked to racism. Within some religions, there are people who understand religious elements of African origin as things of the devil, so they cannot understand the artistic manifestation as a cultural manifestation”, says the creator of CURA. 

“We live in moments of great intolerance, which I think will pass, because this is ignorance, lack of knowledge and devaluation of Brazilian culture. Our culture is diverse, the more we embrace this diversity, the richer we will be culturally”, adds Juliana Flores. 

Alongside this, there are comments about the naked body represented in Astral Hybrid – Brazilian Guardian and the uterus drawn next to the figure. The demonstrations of disgust and disgust towards the female body, for Criola, are a reflection of the misogyny current in society. 

She shares that this is not the first time she has faced cases of racism as a result of her work, but that she remains calm because of the support she has received from those who admire her work and understand the role of art in combating prejudice. The CURA organization sees the same way, and reaffirms its commitment to having indigenous and black artists in its editions, so that they can express themselves and bring even more representation to the streets. (read our article about the latest edition of the event).

Leave a comment

Please write a comment
Please write your name