Imagine swimming with your art in the ocean, bobbing up and down in the blue waves and buffeting breezes in the sun just off the coast of Brazil. Bright and bouncing like beacons while paying tribute to the fishing community just inland, those bikinied and briefed beauties who are cavorting with victorious hands in the air are the artists who painted these sails, and photographer Martha Cooper was there to capture them for BSA readers to enjoy today.
The Além da Rua festival saw its first edition in 2010, founded by Duo Acidum Project in collaboration with Ato Marketing Cultural. This year’s edition was organized by Marcelo Pimentel and Marina Bortoluzzi of Instagrafite and the concept of painting on sails is the first of its kind that we know of. One that speaks directly to the community and the history of the fishing trade in this Port of Pecém District, in São Gonçalo do Amarante. This two-week experience during September on the northern coast of Brazil included painting sails for the typical fishing rafts that fishermen/women have used on the ocean here for a long time.
Not strictly Street Art, this oceanic open-air gallery is created by Street Artists who hail from this region of the world – Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and of course Brazil. The program also included murals painted on walls of the homes of the fishing people, further connecting neighbors, place, pride, and a sense of community.
We have been observing a gradual evolution in the practices of the so-called “mural festivals” that evolved from the illegal Street Art scene in the last few years and we have spoken many times here and in presentations and panels about being leery of what we call a certain “cultural imperialism” that accompanies many of them today. The mural works are simply foisted by a starry-eyed fan-curator upon a neighborhood based on their knowledge of an edgy art movement. Nearly anyone can curate events and exhibitions with the BIG names – a grab bag of stars takes very little creative acumen and the results are often as cohesive as the offerings on folding card tables at your local flea market that sells iPhone 6 cases, 8-pack packages of athletic tube socks, and velvet paintings of Elvis and horses.
By involving artists with the community, as Ms. Bortoluzzi and Mr. Pimentel artfully did, the resulting artworks can have more meaning to the folks who must live with them long after the artists leave. It’s a tricky area to discuss sometimes though because everyone reading this has seen that the worst public art in almost every city often results from the choking, stultifying, uninspiring effects of bureaucratic “design by committee” processes, so we aren’t advocating for that either.
Here photographer Martha Cooper captures the energy and enthusiasm of the artists and fisherpeople and the natural beauty that inspires them all in at Além da Rua.
“Evoca is here painting Ednardo Palmeira’s portrait,” Martha tells us. “The portrait is on the outside of the place where Mr. Palmeira trims, preserves, and sells freshly caught fish. Ednardo seems to be the main person to
do that in Pecém. Fishermen bring their fish to him.”