Sao Paulo is one of the greatest graffiti centers in the world. The city has famous artists like Os Gemeos, Herbert, Speto, Nina, John Howard (from old school), Onesto e Vitche, and a new generation of talents: Flip, Koyo, Cisma, Loucos, Eno and Titi.

Sao Paulo is also home to an almost exclusive expression of art on the walls. Brazilians call it pichacao’, and this ilegal activity often delights artists from other countries that come to Sao Paulo intenting to know our local grafittis. Pichacoes’ are spontaneous and traditional form of painting fonts most of times unrecognizable on walls and high buildings. It’s often composed by street crews and this tradition has been passed from family members or friends of the same neighbourhood through the years. Pigmeus, SS, 2 Mil Grau, Collos… to name a few.

Features that count for a good crew of pichadores’ :

QUANTITY: the more tags spread through different zones, the better. This feature is called “number of role” (say it “holae”).

DIFFICULTY: the great crews always paint their tags on high walls, so that it can be seen by lots of people. They climb buildings abandoned ones or not and sign their marks on the highest place. Many times one of the crews holds the artist upside down by his legs and then he paints their tag. It’s rare, but some arists have already died doing that. Nowadays it is also a valued action when the artist can’t easily find a place to stand on while painting.

ORIGINALITY: The fonts, the names and the unusual places that they choose are important to remark their status among other crews.

Sonik, an american graffiti artist, that has been to Sao Paulo 3 times, remembers the impact of seeing the pichacoes’ for the first time: “When I came to Sao Paulo for the first time, I went mad only by looking through the window at the walls full of pichos’, on the way from the airport to Cambuci (a neighbourhood in the south-central zone famous for its graffitis, mainly because of many works made by OsGemeos). I forgot about the vitality of the Berlin Wall, and I have found it again in Sao Paulo! It has changed my life.” For Sonik and other graffiti experts, Sao Paulo is special because of its variety of styles and the mix of techniques, sprays, caps, rolls, brushes.

As Flip, a new and renowned talent of his generation, says, another important fact that makes Sao Paulo different is that the language is far from an exclusive hip hop cliche although it’s one of its elements. “The lines and kinds of drawnings are free, I guess that more than in any other place; there are new artists following old school style and there are people creating new styles mixing grafitti with design and other stuffs.”

Maybe so many styles imprinted on the walls of Sao Paulo stew from to the mix of resident cultures of the city. They are the living proof that Sao Paulo is really a cultural melting pot – Japanese, Italian, German, Portuguese, African cultures all mixed up. If Sao Paulo walls could talk, we would listen to dubs of reggae, rap, rock, drum’n’bass and regional old songs. Come closer and tune in to it!

Text: Greice Costa
Photos: A’+M

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Masahiro Suzuki