Outside Reading/ Viewing: Pixação

If you’ve here in Brazil or visited, you’ve seen them everywhere. Scrawled on walls, covering them like beautiful ivy or uncontrollable, menacing Kudzu, they make intricate almost Rorschach test like patterns, if you squint and/or are a little imaginative.


I call them squiggles but today I learned that the official word for them is Pixação and the people that make them are pichadores. Piche literally means tar and these squiggles orignally appeared more than half a century ago in response to political banners and slogans.

What they are, are crew or individuals’ name done in a cryptic yet crude manner. Crude because most pichadores in Rio only use a single can of spray paint to make their marks.

I love them and have since I first saw them. I seem to be mostly alone in my opinion, at least among my friends and acquaintances (MGFI scowls every time I point them out). I am personally amazed at how high up some of them are on various buildings. I like to imagine the people perilously scaling the walls in the heart of darkness.

The idea that they risk life and limb just to write their name or their crew’s name is both sad and beautiful to me. I’m reminded of the dozen or so people I’ve met in Brazil while walking around taking pictures who asked me to take their picture. I was surprised when they answered no after I asked if they wanted a copy or a way to see it. They seemed to just want to be seen by someone someday somewhere. It came across to me that they wanted to be counted, to exist, if only on a four by six piece of paper or Facebook/ Flickr album they’d never see.

Here are two groups that stopped me in Angra and asked for their pictures to be taken :



They didn’t give me their names nor ask for mine but now in ways I know them. They are real to me and will always be.

That’s the way I see the Pixação. It’s literally someone making their mark on the world. In sometimes a daring, artistically brave maybe desperate cry to been seen and counted. Maybe it’s not a Van Gogh or even a Banksy but like Banksy- whose works were once cast aside and criticized as being destructive graffiti but now are in gallery exhibits while collectors steal chunks of wall he once “vandalized”- Pixaçao is beginning to be looked at differently, closer.

The Rio Times’ Nathan M. Walters wrote last week about a Pixação documentary, Luz… Câmera, PICHAÇÃO!. You can read the article here, New Documentary on Pixação, Graffiti.


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