Season 2 Ep 1
The Scream of the Streets
with Eder Muniz (Calangoss)
TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH
Jamie Lee Andreson Welcome to the bilingual podcast, Brazil Culture Connections. On this platform, we discuss Brazilian cultural manifestations and their extensions into the world. My name is Jamie Lee Andreson, and I am the facilitator of these conversations. With this episode, we are launching our second season, Art and Culture on the Peripheries. In this series, we are concentrating on urban contexts through conversations with cultural agents acting in the Brazilian peripheries. For this first episode, “The Scream of the Streets,” I spoke in person with visual artist Eder Muniz, known as Calangoss in the streets of Salvador, Bahia.
Good morning! We are here in person for the first time with Eder Muniz, also known as Calangoss: visual artist, from the city of Salvador. So, good morning Eder. To start, could you introduce yourself to our listeners? How did your journey begin with graffiti and street art?
Eder “Calangoss” Muniz Hi everyone, good morning. It is an honor to be here to participate in this interview for the podcast. I am Eder Muniz, also known on the streets as Calangoss. I began working with street art, specifically with pixação [tagging] in ‘96 here in Salvador, simply because I come from a Catholic family. So, to get an idea of what I’m talking about, all the doctrine and repression that a young man suffers with such a closed-minded religion and also with public school, where access to art and culture is very restricted. So, the way I found to manifest, to express myself, was through tagging, which I saw in the streets of my neighborhood, Vila Canária Branco. And it always really intrigued me to know, to understand, to imagine how that happened. I was seeing it once it was already done, I didn’t see it being made, it just appeared on the street. And for me, that was magic; it was like a fungus that grows. So, my first works were in school, in the bathroom. I tagged the bathroom, later I tagged the church that I attended as well. And because of tagging, I was expelled from school and from church as well—these two institutions, which serve to educate or mold you. So, it basically freed me. It freed me from these chains, as we are born free, and we are being chained because sadly the parents—I’m a father, so I’m conscious of this—we don’t have an idea of what it means to educate a child. We even try to learn, we exert ourselves a lot, and the parents, society—we end up chaining these young children up, these young beings who come to this planet. And it happened to me. A tagging—street art—gave me this freedom.
J That’s great. It’s great that you found this way out because many don’t. And this season, I am focusing on the peripheries as a social and geographic urban context to bring these contexts to a greater world, where they already exist. You are already an international artist. Brazilian art is already international, but the public that consumes it many times does not understand the context where it comes from. So, this is what I want to amplify for our listeners. So, in your life and career experience, how do you define the periphery as a social and geographic urban context?
"So, to be a young Black man from the peripheries and to be able to live off my work, off my art, it’s like a political act. And I only became aware of this long after reaching a certain level of maturity. But it was also through this art form that led me to this maturity. And now I am most proud to be from the periphery."
- Eder Muniz (Calangoss)
Eder Muniz (Calangoss) does daily works of grafitti in his hometown of Salvador, Bahia.
C We can’t talk about the periphery, the community, the favela if we don’t talk about the enslavement of Black people. It is where we were thrown. We don’t like to use the word “ghetto” because it’s a word we know was used for the place where Jews were thrown, to exclude the population, the people, as an ethnicity. But the favela wasn’t even created, we were the ones who created the periphery. It was what was left for us. So, there is chaos in this, because there isn’t an organization, there isn’t a construction, a study, a project for this. So, we end up having a very large environmental impact on a city, the periphery must be aware of this. As well as the way the neighborhood was organized. There is beauty in this as well because it is an organic thing. Various architectural projects are born from there. So, you can only imagine how people find solutions to build. This is also a challenge, another part of it—that duality of actually living in the periphery. And the people from the periphery want to escape that situation because their children are more vulnerable in the periphery. Like my family, for example, as my mother didn’t want us playing in the streets so we wouldn’t get caught up in drug trafficking, in crime, right, so we stayed on the margin. Normally, the periphery, well no…the very definition of “periphery” means you are on the margin of the center. We are on the margin of education, the margin of the institutions of city culture, which are always in the center, the margin of parks for you to have an hour of leisure with your family. We don’t have that. So, the periphery is used, it continues being slavery, because it is just used for labor. So, to be a young Black man from the peripheries and to be able to live off my work, off my art, it’s like a political act. And I only became aware of this long after reaching a certain level of maturity. But it was also through this art form that led me to this maturity. And now I am most proud to be from the periphery. I live in the periphery of Salvador, from Vila Canária, by choice. Because I don’t want to be far from that reality. Because I can’t sing about what I don’t experience. You know? So, I want to have this awareness. It is also the place where I grew up. I am 30… I’m actually older than 30, I’m 39, and I have lived in the same neighborhood for over 34 years. So, the people here know me. I know during this transition that many people have already died, people have moved to another neighborhood, but most know me. So, there is respect, and they also know I care for my neighborhood. I’ve been painting in my neighborhood for a long time. I’ve been painting in my neighborhood for practically 20 years. So, my neighborhood is like a crew as well. I make a big impact by holding events, by inviting other artists, even outsiders from exchanges, ranging from New York to Angola, as other artists have already painted in the neighborhood, people from other states as well, and other artists also paint in the neighborhood. So, I think the periphery has a lot of potential, like super potential. The periphery feeds the entire city, but it is still awaiting recognition by the government and the elite. They just want to use the periphery. They just want to use the people living there, and they don’t want to recognize the art that these people have to give. They are worth something. It’s…doing graffiti in the periphery is also to give an example for the new generation that you can make a living off your dream. You know, you don’t need to join the workforce. I am not saying it will be easy, this is not a romance novel or anything. It’s tough, but you can live off of what you believe in.
J Yes, you are an example for many. So, from my point of view, the periphery is the center of Brazilian culture. But it doesn’t have the resources, it stays on the margins of the media. For example, the institutions don’t give support, but at the same time, everything that is Brazilian is born there. So, it’s even celebrated abroad, but these celebrations don’t come in the form of the resources or support that are needed to truly grow and have more access…
C Let’s give a clear example of this: the Carnival. The Carnival is this manifestation, the biggest in the world. Salvador has the biggest celebration in the world, after Rio, I think, then Recife. And who makes money with the Carnival?
J Not the afoxés [Afro-Brazilian carnival groups], for example…
C It’s not those who make the Carnival. The ones who make money with the Carnival are the white people, they are the companies.
J The sponsors…
C Who don’t even want to pay the Carnival workers. Because various people work the whole Carnival and receive nothing for the work they did. I’m talking about the guy holding the rope, holding the street party together. Shit, if they don’t pay, even the little change that you give to him, they don’t even want you to give change to the guy. People are stingy. And this state of slavery exists and is clear as day and everyone knows it. And the same thing happens with graffiti. Who is making money today with graffiti?
J I don’t know.
C It’s the white people. It’s the white people, because for you to be in a gallery, to be in a museum, to go on trips—normally the people who show up to these things are white. You can check that. I won’t even give names here because I find it dreary, unethical. But if you look at who is making money with graffiti, like really making money, and is not dead, it’s the white people. Then there are those who have already made money and are already dead, and the galleries continue to make money off their art. Does that make sense? So, yes, we need to wake up and realize we hold value in our hands and aren’t aware of that value, and that there is someone taking advantage of us.
J That’s a general phenomenon in the arts. It’s not just the visual arts.
So, I have been getting to know you throughout the last year, the last two years actually. I did an exchange in 2011 in Salvador. And you were already in the ACBEU [US-Brazil Cultural Exchange Center] doing murals. So, I am admiring from afar, and I see that you have a way of life that is intertwined with your art, right. You can’t separate one from the other. So, could you share some elements that compose the inspiration of your works and/or your way of life?
C When I started considering doing graffiti—because there are degrees; there is a ladder when you begin doing graffiti, as in tagging (the study of letters, the study of an alphabet), this study, this universe. When I began thinking about doing graffiti, it was like a whole other universe, from the shapes of the designs to the colors. The first time I saw someone doing graffiti, it wasn’t even with spray paint, it was with a [paint] compressor, and they reproduced a Salvador Dalí piece, I think it was called the “The Temptation of Saint Peter,” which has the elephants passing by with those long legs. That freaked me out because I didn’t even know it was Dalí at the time…But also seeing that paint spraying from that machine…it was like air. That was what caught my attention at the time. It was the first time, around ‘99 or ‘98 I think, and I said: “I want to do that. I want to do that there.” I was talking about graffiti because it was on the street. Graffiti is not a technique. Graffiti is a culture. That’s the difference from when you say, “Oh, is it graffiti When it’s when it’s in the gallery?in the museum?” I don’t think so. Graffiti is an attitude, it is the moment that you are doing a piece on the street when you interact with that public space, with the people, with the environment. That is graffiti. It is the moment. It is the event. So, the event that I saw happening enchanted me. And when I thought about working with graffiti, it was with Marcelo Verme, who was a well known tagger in Salvador, persecuted by the media. People talked about him in the media, in the midday news. And Marcelo was always a very authentic guy. He always wanted to make a difference. And the culture around graffiti was always linked to hip hop culture. So the graffiti artists of Salvador reproduced many styles from Europe, the United States—always painting the DJ, the BBoy, the MC, tagging letters, and we didn’t have something like that of our own. The [international] exposure also, knowledge outside of Salvador was restricted. We didn’t have the Internet; it arrived here via magazines, for those who had access to outsiders, who had a little bit of money as well. So that was our first piece about the rural exodus. Because it was something of our own. My father went through it, my family went through it, Marcelo’s family went through it as well, leaving the countryside for the city to attempt to have a life with this illusion that it would be better in the city. And when arriving in the city, they were disappointed because it was B.S., it was a lie, it was deception. And we painted that passage. He painted people leaving the countryside in a wagon, an entire family. And I painted the father and son already in the city, selling coffee—which was all that was left for them—the reality: expectation versus reality. And that shocked the graffiti scene in Salvador, because firstly, it was a piece that didn’t have a lot of spray paint because it was very expensive, and we frequently used paint brushes and paint rollers or acrylic. And it looked more like muralism because it had a different theme. And that was how we arrived at the scene, and it was later noted because it had an identity. And I think this also began to transform the scene in Salvador, not just my work with Marcelo, but this also happened in Brazil. You saw other people in São Paulo, in Pernambuco, already giving identity to Brazilian work, leaving behind the copy of the North American reference and really creating and showing our own culture. And this became clearer in Salvador over time. We are the biggest city where there is—where there live—Black people after Africa. So, you see characters from here, from Salvador. The graffiti on the street has many Black characters, it has strong influences from Black culture. This is distinct to us. Just like how I saw a lot of indigenous issues on the streets of Manaus, it is a trace of identity, and this influences me a lot, this ancestral side of Black culture, of Black essence, but also the indigenous side. It became clearer for me when I traveled to New York in 2006 that the city is so concrete. It seemed so concrete—with trains, cars, pollution—that it made me miss the sea, it made me miss the Atlantic Forest. Then I began working with this topic, and then and even now it was a hot debate on the scene––humanity’s footprint on the planet, and also themes that approached human beings head on to speak about education, culture, sex, drugs… So we turned our gaze to the community—to our needs. I saw that the community needs it, but the essence of everything is respecting other beings. If you respect other beings, you will respect yourself, you will love yourself, and I saw that human beings are not actually victims, they are victimizing other beings. So, that was when it clicked for me, I thought that it transcended the message of the work. And it was happening during the destruction of the Paralela to create the Alphaville [housing complex], to create a new city in Salvador. It was really imposed, shoved down our throats by the old mayor. Because he owes us and works for us, I’ll even say his name here: João Henrique, and he approved this project during Christmas when no one could protest. It was all strategy. And when I was arriving in Salvador, flying over (before landing), you could see the hole [in the forest they bulldozed] in the Paralela. And it was our last part of the Atlantic Forest in the city, you know.
Eder Muniz stands in front of one of his murals in Salvador.
"If you respect other beings, you will respect yourself, you will love yourself, and I saw that human beings are not actually victims, they are victimizing other beings. So, that was when it clicked for me, I thought that it transcended the message of the work."
- Eder Muniz (Calangoss)
J Yes, with rivers as well, right?
C It is an environmental impact. You create a wall of buildings in a path where the sea wind comes, you know, things you don’t study. Like, it’s just greed, and what he gained with this. It was said at the time that there were bags of money to pay bribes for these buildings, for the builders.
J Which are exclusive communities, right, that are part of—what’s it called?—gentrification?
C Gentrification, gentrification. This was a verticalization of Salvador, a part of the verticalization of Salvador on the Parelela. It was radical. So I saw this, I arrived in Salvador with this already in mind, I was already aware. My first work [of graffiti] was on the Paralela, and I painted two pillars on the overpass. I painted really pretty, colorful birds on the pillars. The phrase, “Plant a building, displace the Atlantic Forest,” was written on the next pillar. The phrase was erased the next day.
J Yes, it’s dangerous, isn’t it?
C Because it made whoever was buying [the building] uncomfortable; it made whoever was building take responsibility for this reality. So, I began seeing what kind of nice birds could be in the streets. So I also started to understand the strategy of the work to take over other places as well. So it’s very colorful, it’s super nice, but there is a strong message behind it as well. It has a plea as well. So that’s what I started to do. People are fooled by the beauty, but after they pass by once or twice, they wonder: “Shit, that trip there is intriguing man, what does a guy have to do with a bird’s head?” You know, and people normally go for the obvious, and ask me:
“What is that there?”
“What do you feel? What do you see there?”
“Oh, it’s a man with a bird’s head.”
“Yes. Where does that take you?”
J Yes, it makes you reflect.
C So it’s this thing that generates restlessness in people and generates questions, and that’s a thing of art. Sensibility is denied. When you see art, you are moved by it, and you put yourself in the shoes of the other being. If you don’t go through this, you just fulfill the things on your schedule, you are just your agenda, you are a machine. We are experiencing a moment in humanity, the fourth industrial revolution, which is that the human being is forced to be a machine—
J —And disposable—
C —And if you rest, you are weak, you are wrong. That’s the competition; it is you filling your schedule to the max with what you can do in a day to show the other what you did today. So this issue is also the art that I try to bring to work.
J I have so many questions, but I’ll try to focus. Because there are questions about graffiti itself, like is it “legal”? Like how you handle doing a different work of art every day? You are so prolific, and you erase it so quickly as well. In previous conversations you mentioned the idea of “Living Walls”. So how do you work with this? You have to give yourself a little, well a lot actually.
C It is a process that first…tagging leads you to this detachment, because it causes discomfort. It is indigestible art. It’s what society doesn’t understand and wants to discard immediately, to erase it. “Erase this! I don’t know what he’s talking about.” And tagging really is to create discomfort, because there are discontent people. If you have your car, your apartment, your cool job, but you are on top of someone, you are not paying someone well. Do you understand? You are exploiting someone, you see? There is a lack of education, a lack of culture, a lack of infrastructure in a neighborhood. So, tagging is that question, it is that question. Who is lacking these things? Who are you taking this from? So, we have to let go because we know it won’t last long. When you tag a phrase on a church, for example, accusing it of being complicit with slavery—with genocide—you know it won’t last long [on the wall]. When you attack the government, you know it won’t last long. So then you begin to develop detachment. When you begin doing graffiti, the majority of the pieces you do are illegal as well. It’s an abandoned wall; it’s a wall no one cares about. We look for these abandoned walls, because then we can argue for the legalization of graffiti because the owner…shit, man! The owner abandons them. We live in the community, we take care of the community, we take care of the city. Then you can win, even sometimes reaching the owner with this argument, “Shit, your wall is there. We will paint it for free. We will beautify the whole neighborhood and everything. It’s volunteer work.” So, we create these strategies and we also don’t know how long it will last because the guy can come and [cover up the art] with a poster for a band, an advertisement, a politician, or a tarot card reader, because someone has constantly been putting up these big posters in Salvador. Just going rogue. Then you start getting into this rhythm. And to me, the work is varied, man. After two, three years, I don’t think the same anymore; my aesthetic, my technique have already changed. At least, that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m aiming for this in my work, that if I get comfortable doing what I did ten years ago and continue doing it now, shit, I’m stuck in the past. So I want my work in the neighborhood to already be the new version of Eder.
J Yes, you paint over it yourself and do it again, right?
C I paint over it and do it again. Most of them are already peeling. So in this process, it is the special care I take. For me, my works are like my children. You don’t abandon a child. I come by, I take care of the works, I pass by, I look, if there is a poster or something, I take it down, I call up a friend and say, “Damn man, someone in your neighborhood put up a poster. Come on man! Come on! How is work there? Is it still all good?” So there is assistance in the work. And I know the price, the value of this. And I like that people also get used to and actually follow this transformation process. Calangoss from 2006 is not the same Calangoss, aesthetically speaking. The message, the message is the name. What I aim to do in my work is make it very different so I don’t settle with you just seeing a frog, a flower, a human, but that you can recognize it as mine, and independent of what is painted—because normally it is not signed—they can recognize me by the message, the essence. That is my goal. It’s a goal I put a lot of effort into, having personality, identity in my work so that people today say: “Shit man! I can see that this is you, it’s not signed but just by the color palette, I can sense it is you.”
J By the theme as well.
C I like to pass by [my previous works], and it is as if the work is alive, it's alive on its own. It’s already in dialogue with the population. I went to paint some pieces, fix up some works and people in the neighborhood complained: "Damn! You’re going to cover it up! I like it there every day! No! No! Don't cover it.”
I said, “Calm down, I'm not going to erase it. I’m going to make it new again, transform it.”
Like, you see that it has a relationship with—that's why it's graffiti—it has a relationship with the lives of the people there.
J Yes, with the lives of many. As someone who follows Salvador, I have lived here, but I also toured around the city a lot, and for me Salvador doesn’t exist without Calangoss because [your work is] everywhere, everywhere. For those who haven’t been here before, you must have a mapping of the city that I can’t even imagine. You remember all the places where the works are…?
C Yes, I remember them, because I photograph everything as well and I try to get to know my city well, and graffiti facilitated that because it gives me an excuse to go to different neighborhoods I wouldn’t usually go to. And we are experiencing a delicate moment in Salvador. I think it was on a national level, honestly, the [gang] factions of a neighborhood not being able to enter another neighborhood because they are rival factions. And now more than ever, graffiti gives you this moral authority to enter [into other neighborhoods] for the art, in other words, even in this [dangerous] situation, you have a passport. But of course, you have to be alert because someone might want to use you to strike at the other faction. Like what happened with music here in Brazil and in São Paulo. They killed them just to cause pain in the community because they knew he was very important for the community. So, you have to keep playing. But graffiti facilitates that; it provides this for you.
J I want to give space for you to share about a memorable mural in your trajectory here in Salvador, because there are many. But if you could elaborate a little more about the process, why was it memorable?
C I believe my first mural in Empena, Salvador, on the side of a building, was really memorable for me because I had already done this outside of the country, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to do it in my city. I really wanted to gift my city with this. So, the mural project happened in the neighborhood of Comércio. The government approved ten panels in neighborhoods by artists from the city, local artists of choice from the School of Fine Arts, and graffiti artists. And that panel was a challenge, firstly for being big—it was my biggest mural at the time—
J —I already know which one it is—
C —And also the theme because the production staff asked me if it was linked to Salvador’s history, to our African origins. And most of the panels were made around it. I said, “I will speak about something that came before Black people arrived here, which comes from the essence of this land.” And I spoke about the origins of the native people of this land who named the many places of this land, which was related to the invasion. And I spoke about the indigenous people and this close relationship we have with other beings: with fish, trees, flowers, fauna and flora. So it is a face that unites all of this. The mural is multicolored; it looks like a rainbow, and it was in a good location near the sea, and when you pass by on the avenue, you face it. So, it’s looking at you from the front. I was lucky to have the mural, and the name of that mural is “o Coração da Latinoamérica” [“The Heart of Latinamerica”]. So, it is a plea also for all of Latinamerica, which is only ever exploited by other countries. It continues in this role. It’s 2022, you know, we don’t discuss England’s role in the world, which is the country that takes and extorts the most in the world…
J Still to this day!
C Still, right? That reparation with gold that was taken from Latinamerica was never carried out. You can’t talk about churches, the Catholic church, without being attacked—
J Censorship, right?
"And I spoke about the origins of the native people of this land who named the many places of this land, which was related to the invasion. And I spoke about the indigenous people and this close relationship we have with other beings: with fish, trees, flowers, fauna and flora. So it is a face that unites all of this."
- Eder Muniz (Calangoss)
C Exactly. You know? This discussion, this reparation, isn’t talked about. If I open my mouth today to talk with the Pope and ask him to apologize today for [what’s been done to] the indiginous and Black people, does he know how to apologize? [It would be] by opening your safe and paying for children to go to college, to atone for what you did, for what you took from them. That’s how. It’s not just blahblahblah and demagogy, no. Do you get it? Because that’s all fake. You know? Because if it were real, now that there was a flood in the south of Bahia. You don’t see the church opening its safe to bank something. We have to pray for them. Screw praying, brother! Open your safes and the ones who have to pay aren’t the faithful who are already in need, no. We have been in a pandemic for two years. People already have a rope around their necks and still have to pay up, pay alms. Regarding the church, it’s rich, man. But people are so ignorant that they still think it’s their responsibility. And that’s what they take advantage of, that purposeful ignorance, because they talk about the public organization of schools, the wording of the schools, because studying today—at least in Salvador—is a lie. It’s a lie to study in public school today. It’s just about numbers. They want numbers to be able to prove [themselves], as they said, for the English to see. You know? They want people to get a basic technical training, for them to be able to use the machine. Not to know how to use the machine and understand what the machine is. That’s what they are doing to you. So, that’s what they are doing to Brazil today.
J Yes, and many drop out of school because of this.
C Damn! There is, for example, the same graffiti artist who was signed here in 2020. Skunk. He’s in our book, Ruas Salvador [Salvador Streets]. We suffered a lot because he was full of incredible potential. After, when I went to see his archives, his studies, the guy had a super deep study of calligraphy and tagging. That guy was destroyed like a statistic, a young Black man from the periphery. I think he was only 26 then, as if it were a lot. He didn’t have the chance to really mature. He supported his mother, he was a guy who set an example, his mother and brother. His mother was single. And he didn’t have the chance to live off his own work. And I put myself in his shoes because I’m from that same place, man.
J Do you fear for your life doing your work?
C Today, not so much because my work is well known. I don’t climb over walls, I don’t go out at night like Skunk did. His work had a little more of a challenge, well not a little more, but a radical challenge. To protest like he protested, right, is to put your legal life and your physical life at risk. And today, we also understand that it was a dangerous decision to be in the drug trafficking area, to be mistaken for a thief. We have a lot of theories, but that’s it.
J We know that whoever criticizes Brazilian society, whoever has the power to change things also, becomes a target.
C Yes, exactly, exactly. Because they cause discomfort.
J And it has the potential to really transform society, like Marielle [Franco], right?
C Yes, yes.
J Two more quick questions. We already talked about the challenges you face. I think they are really clear, but I want to give you time to highlight what has been going on with Brazilian society and politics lately?
C I think we are in a very serious situation regarding politics in Brazil, which affects everything. Speaking of morals, speaking of values, speaking of religion, the economy. I think it was necessary for Brazilians to experience this. I think we—think, no—I believe that we camouflaged and hid this racism, this prejudice. And we had the chance to show who we are. We showed our true colors.
J The United States also showed their true colors.
C On a global level, on a global life. It is a global moment and I expose this. I think there is the chance to be very positive, very optimistic. But there is also the chance to be able to heal. Obviously not on a general level, as everyone has their moment. Time is relative for many people, many things, but to undergo this delicate political moment, which attacks the arts, attacks the culture directly by taking resources from the artists, from grants, from the support that exists. And in a pandemic where everything became three times more expensive. I’m all about riding the bus—I still ride the bus—eating things you naturally eat, right.
J Food costs too much, and there is more hunger also because of that.
C So we are living in a delicate moment. It’s a huge stress because the people who are going hungry, who are in need… and it leaves everyone restless, bitter, because you have a child at home who is hungry. It’s not even you, it’s your child who is hungry. It’s not an easy thing to deal with. So, the environment with crime and theft also grew absurdly, domestic violence, right. I don’t think it’s ever been worse for women. So, there are a lot of people spending time at home and in that situation, you know, going through difficult times. So, the attention is greater. So, now for graffiti artists, it’s difficult for them to maintain street work, because we have family. We aren’t speaking up, you know? I think what people imagine graffiti artists to be are young guys, right, who are going through their teenage years and because of this they do this—
J —They rebel.
C No. We have…the book Rua Salvador was launched. It tells the story, the story of street art in Salvador, from tagging to graffiti. There are three decades. So, there are people who are 40 years old, 50 years old, you know, who have families that pay their IPVA [real estate taxes], who pay their rent, who have three kids to educate, you know. So, maintaining the luxury of graffiti for an entire society is difficult, because whoever lives in Barra à Cajazeiras, has graffiti. Now, the value it’s given is still not much in Salvador, like living off graffiti in Salvador is really hard. You have to do other things. I look to do other things related to art, from audiovisual forms to illustration, to fashion, because if I were to live solely off the murals, it’s not going to work; it doesn’t make money. In other places in Brazil, it’s already happening. It’s already natural. There is a market for it, but in Salvador, that market doesn’t exist. And also the artists don’t value themselves to keep a price ceiling that is fair and dignified for the artist. So it’s like, I had to…I’m doing a campaign on my Instagram page. I’m doing a raffle, which is very popular in Salvador, to have the raffles take place in the neighborhoods, and people can circulate money quickly and effectively. I saw this with my works, because I paint the canvases here for the exposition, canvases sold for R$13,500, 4,600, 7,000. I never sold them here in Salvador; I always sold them to foreigners. So, [with the raffle] you get the chance to obtain a work of art valued at R$20 for R$10, to try your luck. And you’ll also be supporting work on the street to continue, because along with all the materials for this work, I’m paying for gas, my food on the street when I’m painting. So, one way or another, I am facilitating, expanding the access to art, you know, I’m fully aware of this, that..Shit! You can win one of these pieces, hang it up in your house, you will create this influence in your house that will influence your kids, your family.
J Visitors as well.
C And the thing is, I…people from the periphery don't have access to original works by local artists. You know–
J —With the glass, the preserved painting, right.
C No, they have copies that he buys at the store, which has nothing to do with the original. It’s just for the aesthetic sometimes. It’s bizarre. You see?
J Poor quality?
C It’s very bizarre. So, there is this chance.
"I also aim for this essence that I spoke about earlier, this afro-indigenous essence, to be present and that the spiritual matter also be present in my works, because I want that work to be alive and like a being, any other being is not just a physical thing, there is the spiritual part as well to have life, to have magic, to have enchantment."
- Eder Muniz (Calangoss)
J And you are so creative and you expand your art in so many ways, so many forms, to be accessible, but also to have the global recognition you deserve. And so, to wrap up, I wanted to know, how do you act in this international scene? How do you bring this context from Salvador to the world?
C I think it makes a difference. I have many influences. I can’t deny that. Some are from Brazil, others from my city, from my state, but I also aim for this essence that I spoke about earlier, this afro-indigenous essence, to be present and that the spiritual matter also be present in my works, because I want that work to be alive and like a being, any other being is not just a physical thing, there is the spiritual part as well to have life, to have magic, to have enchantment. I think this is the difference my work presents. It’s not just an aesthetic matter, there is a ritual there that I do when I am painting. It’s a dance, a celebration for my work to be born. Whoever has already seen my painting has this awareness. And it is what feeds me. It’s like you said, I can’t separate my work from who I am, from what I do, you know, for me there is this relationship, there is this truth. I breathe this, I eat this 24 hours a day. I think it would even be boring to live with me. I try not to speak with people in events about my work. Normally, they are the ones who initiate the conversation asking questions—
J Like, to explain [your works], right?
C And then I say, “Shit, you really want to talk about this, man?”
J The art speaks for itself, right?
C I already live this 24 hours a day, so it’s like, I end up being boring because I’ll be talking again. I don’t like being the center of attention, the work speaks for itself. So, let’s talk about something else that has to do with work. I’ll talk about philosophy, politics, you know, that have to do with the work, but to talk about the work directly? I sometimes think it’s very opportunistic.
J Or the redundancy.
C Yes, exactly.
J I hope this conversation has been ample for you. [Laughs.]
C It’s great! We are talking about everything. I am careful about egocentrism. I am really careful about it. I am not a humble guy. I look to study. I try to be, I try to have this place of openness. I think humility is this: you are open to things entering you. I try, I don’t always succeed. And that’s what the work has taught me. That’s why I also like interacting with many people, because that’s when I leave my bubble, right. When you interact with people, you have to deal with the way others paint over time, and in this marathon to renovate the panels here in Salvador, I am organizing many people for us to do collective works. Precisely to take me out of my comfort zone, to challenge myself to do work differently, because I know another person might work differently. How I can interact with them to not be so distant, to have a dialogue, to not be just aesthetic, to have a dialogue? So I am proposing that too. And that’s a matter of age. I say to whoever is arriving now— “What can I do? What is this like?” Man, study your message, because the rest, you know? After you understand your message, everything you see around the references will happen according to what you have transcended. The message will choose the images. They will relate to your images. That came with time for me. I didn’t have anyone to tell me that. You see? So, shit. For me, you know, this is a light. If someone understands what I’m saying here, it will help a lot. It’s going to get things moving like hell.
J And your brand, right, it’s not commercial, but it is an identity.
C An identity. It’s what a friend of mine who works with art, she’s a curator, said: “Shit, sometimes it’s hard for you to go out on the street.” I see her side. I see their side, those who do and see so many bad things. I understand because it really is a very primary level for some who are out on the street. They are not careful to study before at home.
J It’s a laboratory, right.
C It’s a laboratory. But I was careful to explore my neighborhood before going downtown, because I knew I didn't have a high enough level to display my work in that way. But with this thing about the influence of internet and media, I don't know, everybody wants to be famous and wants it to happen really fast, you know? So there's no time.
J Just to have followers, right.
C You know, and they want to compete with those who have already been here for 20 years, you know? And they don’t think you're humble just because you don’t want to paint with someone else, man. Things are conquered. Naturally, things are conquered. You create, you build up work, you don’t come [to the scene] all ready, no. You have to build your work. So that’s it. If you can understand what you need for this time, for this study, now I understand how are you going to require this of someone If it was never offered to them. Just like the pagode music. What the fuck? It’s low culture, the lyrics are horrible. That, for me, along with tagging, is the thermometer that is being offered to young people from the periphery. If you offer them shit, what do you expect in return? Pearls? You won't get pearls, shit, because you know you're offering shit to the public. It's all the time. You only ever see violence on TV, commercials to buy stuff, so this type of music is all about ostentatious relationships all the time, and sex, and I want to win. It is because that is what is being offered.
J The values, right?
C And in general. Religion also only offers that, you know? You bargain with God for yourself, for God to give you something in your life, I’m praying because he’ll give something to me. This bargain goes both ways, fuck! You want society to give you what exactly?
J Yes, it’s a transaction, but life is much more than that.
J You bring this to a wider audience.
Thank you so much for sitting down with me once more because I know you have already done so many interviews. You can check out the materials about Eder Muniz, Calangoss. There is his social media, articles, vidoes, daily posts as well about his works on Instagram, which is what he uses most.
C Thank you so much for your support.
J I just want to say thank you. It was also great to exchange these ideas in person! This was important, and I have so many more questions, but I won't waste any more of your time. There is a lot of accessible information about Eder Muniz, and I know he has had a long career and will continue [to expand upon it] in the future.
C I just wanted to say thank you for the space. Each opportunity we have to speak is different, because of the moment, because of the people who exchange ideas. And they are also different moments of my life. Today, I am a little more aware, just a little, you know. I want to say that what I shared here, the information, it is my point of view at this moment in my life. There are no dogmas here. Nothing is the absolute truth. This is my experience—how I lived it. And everyone lives life in their own way. There isn’t a formula, there isn’t a formula; you create your own formula. Sometimes it works for more than one person, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to create your own. And that’s all. It’s like pedagogy. Each student has a different…there are people who learn by listening, there are people who learn by speaking, right? So, thank you.
J They are perspectives. And I am pleased to share your perspective on life, work, and context, which come from different peripheries in Salvador.
This episode was recorded in person between Jamie Lee and Eder Muniz in Salvador, Bahia, February 2022. Don’t forget to enjoy it, share it, and write a review of our podcast. All the transcriptions and translations of the interviews are available on our website, www.brazilcultureconnections.com. Thank you to our team – translator Amanda Talbot – technical support Jonatas Borges Campelo and the Department of Digital Pedagogy from the University of Pennsylvania State.
The song is called “Hero” by Noah Muteb with free use.
Thank you and see you soon.