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Unpacking All the Things: Sao Paulo, Brazil

As I mentioned before, I travel quite a bit for work and I'm always on the look out for evidence of comics culture in my everyday life. Sometimes the evidence is a bit of a stretch but other times, comics culture is abundantly found without much effort. Such was the case during my recent visit to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Even before I landed at Sao Paulo's international airport (GRU) I had my first comic culture moment. The call letters for the airport GRU obviously also spell the name of Gru, 'master/leader' of the Minions from the popular Despicable Me franchise. As I was collecting my baggage I jokingly thought, 'I wonder if the marketing team took advantage of this coincidence'. And sure enough, they did - look at these luggage carts! I didn't take the time to search the whole airport but who knows there could have also been a fun Minions themed kids play area or public art installation.

Once settled at my hotel, I decided to go exploring and found my way to Ibirapuera Park. This park is massive and a fantastic place to spend the day outdoors but it also features some unique museums. I ventured into the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art which was smaller than expected but worth the visit for the unique and powerful art including the art of Marcelo D'Salete. D'Salete is a lecturer, illustrator of children's books, researcher in Afro-Brazilian history and creator of graphic novels. In 2018, he received the Eisner Award and Jabuti Award. You can see the influence of photography and cinema in his work as he brings past history to life.

Just outside the building, people of all ages were getting roller skating lessons and wandering through the sculpture park.

Nearly all of my photos have some sort of art in them. That's mainly because public art is EVERYWHERE in Sao Paulo. Some call it street art, graffiti or public art but what every you call it, this art captivates the viewer. Before arriving I read that in 2006, the Lei Cidade Limpa (Clean City Law) took effect that prohibited all outdoor advertising. Although the law was controversial, 15,000 billboards were taken down and the results are astounding. Besides being able to see the amazing architecture this city holds, it led to a re-evaluation of street art, its importance and its contributions to the city. In some cases, real social issues were uncovered because they were previously physically covered by billboards (shantytowns, human rights violations, etc).

One of the best places to see street art come alive in Sao Paulo is in Beco do Batman (Batman Alley). This alley and its adjacent streets are well known for its ever changing street art. The name is said to have come from the original artists having painted Batman on the alley walls in the 1980s (no, its not because this is where the Wayne family was killed, geez people). The weekend I was there, there happened to be a street festival so many of the artists were vending in the streets, galleries dedicated to the street art were open and live music was playing. Such a fantastic funky vibe and scene! I went again later in the week and without the festival going on, you could really see the art on the walls, and experience this place as a true outdoor art gallery.

I couldn't help noticing that when I entered the country, coming from a 'western society' that uses comics culture primarily to sell movie tickets, toys and clothing, I was trained to think that way (i.e. - would there be a Gru tie in at the GRU airport) but upon leaving, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated by all the street art and lack of constant advertising. I have always known that comics culture does wonders for the expression of self, cultural identity, history and more but until visiting Brazil, I hadn't seen it happening in such an organic and natural way.

Do you want to see more of my photos and videos from Sao Paulo? Be sure to check my Instagram and TikTok accounts.

#unpakingallthethings #SaoPaulo #Brazil #comicsculture #streetart #Gru #graphicnovels

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