Considered to be the 14th most globalised city on the planet, the city of São Paulo is known as the economic center of Brazil. Besides its economic power and influence, the city, made up of its buildings, streets, and bridges, is more than inspiration, but a stage for street art. Exploring the city as his canvas, Eduardo Kobra revives the memories of the city, engages with social debates, and inspires hope with his art.
It was in one of the suburban areas of this city that a young boy in the 90s started his art as an act of protest on the facades of public buildings. Born into a humble family, he developed his drawing skills as a self-taught artist, later taking inspiration from Brazilian painters. Kobra’s first contact with street art, however, came through hip-hop music as he was part of a breakdance group.
Since then Kobra’s art has been deeply linked to the city, each graffiti respects the location where it is made, taking into consideration the history of the place, the neighbourhood habitats, passers-by, and the building itself. He sees the city as a democratic space in which every drawing made on the streets fits into a context that can be appreciated or discovered by paying attention to its details.
His work began to gain greater visibility with the “Muros da Memória” memory walls, in which he portrays the daily scenes of São Paulo during the early years of the 20th century. The artist was inspired by an exhibition of pictures of the city in the ’20s showing the old buildings and was struck by how none of those memories remained in place. For the artist, it's more than a portal to the past, it is a protest against the government’s negligence in preserving this cultural heritage. Somehow, with his paintings, he is trying to reconstruct what has been destroyed.
Born in 2002, this project was designed to create an impression of peace that contrasts with the current pace of life in the city, known for traffic jams, people rushing, and busy life. Using shades of sepia or black and white, he describes an old São Paulo through his gigantic graffiti that redeem the importance of those places and create a sense of belonging to the inhabitants of the city.
His militancy goes beyond the historic preservation of the city. In fact, Kobra tries to make his city more accessible. In times when there was a debate on the inclusion of bicycle lanes to increase the urban mobility network of São Paulo, he showed his statement in, literally, grand style: a large mural titled “Genial é andar de bike” (Cycling is a brilliant idea) making a reference to the German physician Albert Einstein who once wrote in a letter to his son Eduard “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”. While not an avowed cycling enthusiast, Kobra has voiced his works for the benefit of the community.
The last project I would like to share represents for me the complete artist who can be able to save the past, engage in momentum discussions, and create hope. Peaceful looks, “Olhares da paz” in Portuguese, are a series of graffiti to celebrate the union of different countries, a borderless and peaceful world. Those are portraits of meaningful people who have bravely changed their reality, names like Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Madre Teresa de Calcutá, Dalai Lama and Albert Einstein are on this list. These faces are freely displayed for anyone who passes by on the street and it’s a gentle reminder to keep our faith in humanity.