Note from BW of Brazil: Art is another powerful means by which one can convey important messages and of course here on this blog we’ve highlighted the work of plenty of singers, musicians, actors and actresses, but paintings and specifically street art or graffiti is another genre that one could dedicate an entire blog to. Anyone who has traveled to cities such as Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or São Paulo knows that Brazil is home to some amazing graffiti artists! In past years and travels throughout the country, this writer has taken numerous photos of some of these thought-provoking, often genius artistic expressions and one group whose worked I’ve followed for some time is OPNI. The work of this group has appeared in magazines, on websites and a few years ago, I helped to translate a university cultural anthropology paper into English about this talented group of artists. OPNI is yet another artistic group, along with various black theater groups, that is presenting the image of the black woman that continues to be treated as an outsider by Brazil’s mainstream media. In the two pieces below courtesy of the Rap Nacional and Noticiário Periférico websites, we introduce our readers to the São Paulo-based group whose work has also been featured in the United States.
Formed in 1997, initially the OPNI Group was composed of about twenty young residents of the neighborhood of São Mateus, on the outskirts of São Paulo who came together with an ideal in common: to express through art, the reality of the day to day that made them invisible to opportunities and a target to form stereotypes. Taking inspiration from the community where they grew up and the strong influence of Afro-Brazilian culture, traits developed by the OPNI Group reveal a peripheral and activist view who passes through various themes constructing a poetic visually equally beautiful and impressive.
Over the course of 17 years, the group achieved significant work with participation in international events (Manifesto Canadá in 2008; Gran Maestro Graffiti and Chile Sudaka Dance in 2004) and developed projects for many artists of the current scene of independent music, as rappers Racionais MCs, Crioulo, MV Bill, Dexter, Emicida, bands Charlie Brown Junior, O Rappa, Banda Black Rio and Ponto de Equilíbrio, among others.
Currently, OPNI is also responsible for several projects carried out in Vila Flávia, and that dialogue with outlying communities around the world. Some of these actions are led by the NGO São Matheus em Movimento, which founded the collective in 2008, earning the status of biggest cultural articulator of the region, and today operating in partnership with various groups, offering, in addition to support for artists, free courses and workshops in different languages, for children and adolescents.
Graffiti artists pay homage to black women on murals in Brazil and in the world
By Anderson Hebreu
The Opni Group is formed by graffiti artists of the east zone of São Paulo, which has the periphery as its main source of inspiration. In their works, the artists portray the beauty of black women, highlighting the African features and cabelos crespos (kinky/curly hair). The tributes are exhibited outdoors, on walls in the streets of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York and New Orleans.
For 18 years, the OPNI group has developed actions that promote dialogue on the right to the city, using the territory as a space for articulation of ideas, strategies and human development. Through the reproduction of everyday situations, protest, but also new proposals are born.
From the perspective of those who have experienced the exclusion of rights, the OPNI Group inserts in its art, an exercise of reflection that enhances the spread of self-knowledge, education and entrepreneurship as a means of transformation.
Among the main projects of the collective is the Galeria a Céu Aberto (Gallery to Open Skies), a graffiti museum located in the Vila Flávia neighborhood, which brings together more than 200 interventions signed by artists of Brazil and the world.