‘Article’ Category

October 13th, 2010

Heroes of the Caatinga

Salgueiro, Pernambuco is a fast growing town in Northeast Brazil’s central Sertão, a semi-arid region known in English as ‘the backlands’. The Sertão has been home to some of the country’s most legendary rebels, such as the bandit Lampião and the mystic Antônio Conselheiro. These characters roamed the caatinga, the parched, spindly scrub that covers the region,  some of the harshest territory in the continent. The Memorial do Couro is a museum dedicated to the vaqueiros (cowboys) that make their lives in this country today featuring photos by Geyson Magno.

As it’s a region that is not within everyone’s reach here are some of Gerson’s pictures to give an idea of the aesthetic of such people, defined above all by their tenacity and ability to resist in difficult social and environmental conditions.

The Guarani Kaiowá are one of Brazil’s most populous indigenous people. Kaiowá means forest people, except that they have no forest any more. It has all been cut down. They have been cleared off their lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state in successive waves, and dumped to fend for themselves in tiny, overcrowded reserves. The battle for space in Mato Grosso do Sul is tough. Land in the area is earmarked for lucrative sugar cane production. Below Seu Nelson and Dona Antonia stand between fields of cane planted on ancestral land.

The 1988 Brazilian constitution guaranteed Brazilian Indian land rights, and in the 1990s small groups of Kaiowá families began to leave their reserves to reoccupy their ancestral lands. This tactic, although painful and slow, has resulted in some success, and a number of traditional territories have been reoccupied. 35 territories are still in question and throughout the state Kaiowá families are camped by the roadside in shacks covered by black plastic sheets. Above, leader Zezinho explains tactics at the Ñanderu Laranjera camp. Despite the heat and the dust, spirits are high, and Kaiowá elders pass free hours passing on traditional customs and prayers to the younger generations. Below, photo of a traditional Guaxiré festivity, held in the dark while trucks speed by in the pitch dark at speeds of up to 140km per hour.

The Kaiowá struggle has been brought to the big screen in the film Birdwatchers by Chilean-Italian director Marco Bechis that won the One World Media Award in June. For more information on the Guarani Kaiowá and how to support them, see the site of Survival International.

Trailer for Birdwatchers:

The Gemeos rocking the “Viva La Revolución” Exhibition of the Museum of Contemporary Art of San Diego that runs until January 2011. Fellow artists Shepard Fairey and JR tak about their work and the exhibition here.

Photos courtesy the Gemeos blog on 12OzProphet.

July 17th, 2010

Happy Birthday Vaughn Bodé

I first heard of Vaughn Bodé thanks to my school friend TK aka SnatchOneskiRocker an original all round B Boy, graffiti writer, DJ and breaker who now works in music. In 1989 TK painted this fantastic lizard at the 3 Corners Hall of Fame in London.

Starting with artists like Seen and Dondi in New York, writers have been reproducing Vaughn’s characters on trains and walls the world over since the 1970s. His vast body of work can be found in books with names like Deadbone Erotica and Junkwaffel populated by characters like Harry in the Amber Block and Cheech Wizard. His remarkable cartoons are crude, philosophical, grotesque, beautiful, sad, mean and often very funny.

The Bodé legacy is looked after by tatooist and cartoonist Mark Bodé – just 12 years old when his father passed away on July 18 1975 at the age of 33.

See my light come shining brightly is a moving account of Vaughn’s life by Bob Levin.

Vaughn Bodé, Happy Birthday to you, wherever and everywhere you are.

All images copyright Bodé. Photo of Snatch character copyright Toby Howell.

Zooks and out.


Watch the skies because Tropa de Elite 2 is coming! This is the sequel to José Padilha’s Elite Squad, one of the highest grossing and most controversial Brazilian films to date. Tropa 2 picks up on the story in the present. Anti-hero Capitão Nascimento has left the BOPE and is now working for the government in the state public security secretariat, where he becomes involved in investigating the armed groups called milícias (militias) that have been growing in power of the west of Rio since 2005. Hopefully the film will reveal some of the high level corruption that sustains violence in Rio. Militias control whole neighbourhoods and put rest to the misconception that violence in the city is purely the result of favela based gangs. A new character in the film, a state deputy and human rights activist, is based on real-life head of the Rio state human rights commission, Marcelo Freixo, and his work in unmasking some of the big political players behind militias and organised crime including the city’s former police chief. Marcelo is the target of death threats and only travels around Rio with police protection and a bullet proof car. Although he can’t even enter most of the west of the city, he is standing for election again in October. Let’s hope he gets elected again. Tropa 2 will be released in Brazil on 8th October.