Flirting With Death in the Name of Street Art - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Flirting With Death in the Name of Street Art

Flirting With Death in the Name of Street Art

By Ricardo Martinez


Standing up for what you believe in is rarely this costly.

By Ricardo Martinez

Talitha Andrade is from Vitória da Conquista, the world’s 11th-most dangerous city. Her hometown is in Bahia state, which has Brazil’s third-largest number of female homicides and has the fifth worst female homicide rate nationwide. She now lives in Salvador, Brazil’s first capital and the cradle of Afro-Brazilian culture, where religion-driven patriarchal hierarchies still dominate society.

In 2016, 5,227 women in Brazil were killed, with 621 categorized as femicides, according to the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública. For many, the recent murder of Rio de Janeiro politician and activist Marielle Franco, which many believe was politically motivated, has worsened Brazil’s already ultra-violent climate. Violence against the LGBTQ community is also a fact of life — Bahia has the third-largest absolute number of deaths out of a national record 445 in 2017, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia, the go-to nonprofit for LGBTQ violence figures in Brazil.

When Andrade started her work 10 years ago, she never imagined Brazil would burst open socially and politically like it has, making her work even more relevant. What’s more, she never imagined that a mayor in a city like São Paulo, among the world’s largest cities, and Latin America’s economic powerhouse, would wipe out a thriving street art scene by forbidding new works from giving life to the concrete-asphalt-brick landscapes — a blow to street art nationwide.

Following continued police harassment as she graffitied Salvador’s walls, Andrade began going out to paint with friends who could protect her — she felt threatened as a lesbian and as a woman. For that reason, she also decided to set up shop, as other artists have, at Forte do Barbalho, once a military fort where at least 100 political prisoners, including an estimated dozen women, were held and tortured during Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. Now Andrade can design her work before hitting the streets, but, paradoxically, she does so in a place that has a deep history of male violence and oppression.

This is a day in the life of Andrade.


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