Paulo Ito and his World Cup’s viral image

The portrait of a weeping, starving Brazilian child with nothing to eat but a soccer ball is a simple and evocative image that was posted by the Brazilian artist Paulo Ito on May 10th on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia municipaliy. This mural became an international sensation as the message is obvious; all it is needed to understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

Paulo Ito's World Cup mural

[Slate]“The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,” he explained via Facebook chat. “I didn’t mean [to say] nobody is doing anything against poverty,” he said of the mural. “But we need to show the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”

“Two years ago I painted in an [abandoned] building and I was thinking to paint something about poverty, but when I went inside I changed my mind,” Ito told me. “They already live what I was supposed to paint.” Instead, he said, in those cases he painted what the people asked him for: football team symbols, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Ito’s issue seems to be with the fact that people are forgetting the poor in his country (which might explain all the recent rioting, looting, and hardcore police crackdown).

Ito echoed the idea that the government’s response has been largely cosmetic. He mentioned two Brazilian aphorisms: tapar o sol com a peneira and leis para inglês ver. The first means to “cover the sun with the sieve.” The second can be translated as “just to show for the English.”

Still, Ito doesn’t appreciate how his artwork has been used by conservative networks like TV Revolta to attack President Rousseff. He says the mural is a broader criticism of Brazilian society, and Rousseff—the chosen successor to populist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—has done some good things for the poor.

Ito initially wanted to put the image outside of the 70,000-seat Itaquerão Stadium, the site of the World Cup opener. He later changed his mind, thinking that the school, in what he describes as a largely middle class part of Pompeia, was more appropriate. He says he did not want to place it in a poverty-stricken district, such as one of São Paulo’s favelas, and that he has gone out of his way to avoid posting such images in those areas.

“Two years ago I painted in an [abandoned] building and I was thinking to paint something about poverty, but when I went inside I changed my mind,”As he mentions: “They already live what I was supposed to paint.” Instead, he said, in those cases he painted what the people asked him for: football team symbols, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

+ via: Slate

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