Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview with Baga (graffiti artist)

xhere's my latest bio that i finally finally got written. it only took a couple of months i think!!! ; ) productivity is wayyy too slow.


“The first time I saw a graffiti magazine and all that you could produce with spray, I couldn’t believe it. I became crazy about it.” This was 2002, a couple years after Baga has already started tagging. He knew and hung out with several of Salvador’s most notorious crews - DDT GLS, STI, GS, T. It wasn’t easy for him to start doing graffiti, he taught himself to draw, but wasn’t able to apply his designs to the street. After taking a class with Lee in Sao Caetano, he and others began to improve their technique. “I was dedicated to things that happened in the streets, people who didn’t value or believe in the potential (of graffiti). This is what strengthened me in my path alone.” At the time, Baga points out, Salvador’s public didn’t give the same support to graffiti that graffiti artists had in other Brazilian cities. “We faced a lot of discrimination. At the time, everything was pichacao. We were taken to the police station, they’d take our materials, hit us. We suffered because of this repression, because of the lack of information on the part of the public.”

Like most of Salvador’s graffiti artists, it wasn’t easy for Baga to prove to his family that he wasn’t going to become some “lazy ass”, but that being a graffiti artist could be a meaningful profession. Today, he tells his mother, graffiti is the source of his income. In addition to getting commercial jobs on the side, Baga has been a part of the Salvador Graffiti Project since 2005. He credits the Project for helping transform Salvador’s perception of graffiti and for supporting artists to make a living off their art. He considers his work in the project as more commercial and that the artists involved work more as decorators than artists, helping paint schools and other public buildings, but lack complete artistic freedom and discretion. Baga reminds us that the Project got started during a round of public debates with the youth Ile Aye Hip Hop Network with the intent of ridding the city of pichacao. But since the start, people have seen that it wasn’t going to be possible because, as Baga points out, “pichacao is also a culture. It might be an illegal culture, but there’s no way to eliminate it, because it’s a virus that will always be present... Lately, there’s been less pichacao in the neighborhoods, and more in the center of the city.”

Baga is also an MC and is active in Salvador’s hip hop community. He credits hip hop with helping open his eyes to political and social issues that he never would have learned about in school or from his family. “Graffiti is a way to politicize youth, to show our identity in society. (And) hip hop is a way to critically view things, to learn about my rights in society, in the government. I read literature that is important for all of us - as artists, as MCs, anyone, as normal citizens - reading is the base. It’s reading that got me to thinking in this different way.”

Baga’s graffiti is ever-evolving, he is constantly studying, changing his technique, looking for ways to improve. He started out with images of people, today he works more on letters, realism too, and says that maybe in the future he’ll do 3-d. He shares advice with upcoming graffiti artists: “You want to be a graffiti artist, you have to study, draw, paint, everything, everything that you can study, you should study. Study the environment, look at your life, what surrounds you, inspire yourself, design, it’s that, art is life. While there is life, there will be art, and while there’s art, there will be life.”

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