Graffiti Art in Brazil

In many places, graffiti is against the law. But Brazil has taken a different approach. Luke Haley and Katy Blake look at the art of graffiti in Brazil.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Luke Haley.

Voice 2 

And I’m Katy Blake. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In the favelas of São Paulo, Brazil, the streets are very narrow. Many small houses crowd close to each other. There are walls on every side. The walls are grey. They look old and dirty. But a group of children are painting the walls. They cover every surface with bright blue paint. They even paint the street and the steps between the walls. The children get covered in paint too! They laugh and play.

Voice 2 

These children are helping with a graffiti project. Graffiti is an illegal form of writing or drawing. People usually create graffiti with spray paint. They press the top of a can and the paint shoots out. People often paint graffiti on walls or parts of public buildings. Another common place for graffiti is on trains and buses.

Voice 1 

However, the graffiti project in São Paulo is different. It is not against the law. This project is led by a group called Boa Mistura, from Spain. Together with local people, they painted whole streets of São Paulo in bright colours. Yellow, red, green and blue - these colours cover the walls and streets. Then Boa Mistura painted large white letters. They wrote positive words of encouragement. So when people walk into one neighbourhood they see the word ‘Love’, in Portuguese. Another area has the word ‘Sweetness.’ Another area has the word ‘Strength’. Another says ‘Faith.’ These bright colours and encouraging words lift people’s spirits.

Voice 2 

This may not be what many people think of when they think of graffiti. But artists in Brazil are changing the way people think about street art. Today’s Spotlight is on graffiti in the country of Brazil.

Voice 1 

In Brazil, people see a big separation between different kinds of graffiti. One kind of graffiti is called tagging. This is when a person writes his or her name. Or they write the name of an illegal gang. Tagging does not take much time or skill. Other kinds of graffiti include larger pictures. These take much more artistic effort. And there is a lot of this amazing detailed graffiti in the cities of Brazil.

Voice 2 

In 2009 Brazil passed a law decriminalizing graffiti. This law made it legal to paint graffiti. But people must first get permission from the property owner before they paint on it. The Brazilian government also set up a system to register some graffiti. Then it will not be removed. This change in the law has made graffiti more common in Brazil. The magazine Design Week said:

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“Brazilian graffiti art is considered among the most important parts of a global art movement. Graffiti in the rest of world is more and more the same. But in Brazil there are many different kinds of graffiti.”

Voice 1 

One area where the government encourages street art is in the favelas. The favelas are poor areas. They are known to have many problems with drugs and gangs. These groups are violent and illegal. But in these dangerous neighbourhoods there are often bright paintings on the grey walls. This colour provides a more beautiful environment. There are even positive messages given through street art.

Voice 2 

Some non-government organizations have also gotten involved. One of these is an organization called Caramundo. Caramundo teaches graffiti workshops for young people. Anouk Piket works with this organization. He thinks that graffiti can encourage people through projects like the colours and words painted by Boa Mistura. But Caramundo also thinks graffiti can provide discipline and structure. Piket told reporter Michelle Young:

Voice 4 

“We hope to encourage the youth to learn more and read more. We hope they discover what life has to offer outside their daily life. The young people learn about graffiti techniques. But they are also learning art, culture, and language. Letters are important in graffiti, which means that reading and writing are also taught in the workshops.”

Voice 1 

Some street artists in Brazil even say that doing graffiti saved them. Marcos Rodrigo Neves is a graffiti artist in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janiero. Rodrigo grew up in a very dangerous part of the city. Many of his friends died from using illegal drugs. Rodrigo says that painting graffiti kept him away from drugs and violence. Recently, the government paid Rodrigo to paint four large pieces. These were on display during a United Nations conference in 2012. Rodrigo will also be painting areas in the port district of the city.

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Rodrigo is one of many Brazilian graffiti artists who hope to become known around the world. There are already a few well-known Brazilian graffiti artists. Probably the most famous are twin brothers from São Paulo. They paint under the name Os Gemeos. This means ‘the twins’ in Portuguese. Os Gemeos paint all around the world, from Scotland to Cuba to New York City. Their work is often political. They want to represent the opinion of the people of Brazil. For example, one of their pieces in São Paulo shows a donkey. The donkey’s eyes are covered with a cloth blindfold. The donkey is also kicking a football and drinking alcohol. Spray painted words say: ‘Corruption, in a country for all people.’ This is Os Gemeos’ statement about corruption, and the unfair political practices in Brazil during elections.

Voice 1 

Os Gemeos also use their work to share Brazilian culture. Their paintings show respect for family life and Brazilian traditions. Os Gemeos want to see more positive change in their country. But they also celebrate hope and the colourful life of Brazil.

This is a major aim for all Brazilian graffiti artists. Nunca is a well-known graffiti artist from São Paulo. He uses many traditional elements in his painting. He often paints native Brazilians, or indigenous people. Nunca was in a documentary film about graffiti called ‘Bomb It Two.’ In it, he explains the basic desire of many Brazilian graffiti artists:

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“As an artist I explore my roots. It is important for me to be influenced by my roots because I was born and raised in Brazil. In my work I try to get to the origins of Brazilian culture and what it means to be a Brazilian.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Nick Mangeolles. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Graffiti Art in Brazil’.

Voice 1 

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Should graffiti be legal or illegal? Do you think graffiti street art can be beautiful?


Avatar Spotlight
said on February 11, 2014

art is amazing

JoaoVBR's avatar
said on March 31, 2015

It is always good listen a program here about my country.
Year after year, we can see more graffiti art on the streets. But at the same time, there is also the “tagging” as it was spoken in the program. For me, “tagging” is a trash art. Instead of let the city more beautiful, tagging sadden us =(
But the majority of brazilians like the graffiti art here!

Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on April 01, 2015

That’s greatly, if a government, a home owner and an artist has been committing together about where they can paint graffiti and which major aim they need to paint for encouraging someone who is living around there.

However, someone who isn’t a graffity artist, they still want to paint on a pubblic wall with their advertising for their job. It has made a city to become more dirty. Government must have to penalize a violation seriously.

Thanks Sporlight. GOD bless everybody.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 25, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Tuesday 25, October 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Katy Blake, Rena Dam, Luke Haley, and Nick Mangeolles:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article, thanks!

Yes, graffiti should be illegal because there are many gangs, vandals, drug user, and drug addict who have painted our walls and they have been with dirty appearance. So, these vandals have told to people that they are artistics.
However, if one true graffiti artistic has the permission from the owner to paint a private property, it is okay. And sometimes, the true artistic has painted beautiful pictures on the walls, fences, public places, and etc.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 21, 2018

It’s necessary to know the difference between graffiti and graffiti. When people paints walls with a form of expression of their feelings, for them to modify ours behaviors and points of view, graffiti can be considered art. However, if paintures has the aim to dirty and break the harmony of builts and monuments, they are mere manifestation of intelectual poverty.