Individuals of all economic strata are shedding their jobs, hometowns, and lifestyle to embrace a wider experience and a more meaningful existence.
Panmela Castro [aka: Anarkia Boladona] is a graffiti artist who took her talent to Rio de Janeiro's favelas, or slums, and painted murals to inform women about new Brazilian laws protecting the rights of domestic violence victims. To further her impact, Castro co-founded Rede Nami, an organization that uses art as a medium to promote socially conscious campaigns. Castro is a 28-year-old multi-media artist from Brazil who uses graffiti and street art to promote social change and awareness. Her project is a campaign to educate disadvantaged women about the recently passed Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence against Women, the law named after a woman who was so severely beaten by her husband that she was paralyzed for life. To further this project, Castro ventured into the slums of Rio de Janeiro to create murals that promote awareness about the existence of the new law and to educate women about their rights under the new Legislation. A survivor of domestic violence herself, Panmela knew that the recently passed Maria da Penha law on domestic violence in Brazil would remain on paper unless she worked to bring it to the ground. Castro is accomplishing spreading the word about the law by harnessing the power of graffiti and art as a vehicle for social change. Castro found that many teenagers were reluctant to come to a lecture about the law, which they perceived as boring, but if asked to come to a graffiti workshop, they would all attend. At the workshops, Castro incorporates education about rights and the new law, knowing that many of the participants would leave and talk to their friends, mothers, and boyfriends about the law, which would multiply awareness. By using her art to reach those previously uninformed of their rights, Castro empowers Brazilian women to speak out about domestic violence.
People are unable to ignore these large colorful messages or avoid the important message conveyed in the graffiti murals. Panmela uses her art to extend a lifeline to these victims that were previously too frightened to speak up. Maria da Penha whom the legislation was named after, has been featured in some of graffiti work of Castro. Panmela Castro is the founder and and art coordinator of Rede Nami, an organization using social art projects as an instrument of cultural transformation and continues to to use graffiti for other womans rights projects. Castro believes that she can make the world a better place by using graffiti effectively to portray positive messages of social change. In addition to studying at the prestigious Art School Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, her socially-conscious art has earned her a place as one of the most important members of the Brazilian graffiti movement by paving the way for women graffiti artists in Brazil through the BR Graffiteiras network. Today, Panmela travels throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa to promote the Graffiteiras BR mission and to share her vision through lectures, exhibits and workshops hosted by the United Nations, the OSA Art Forum, the German Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the La Familia Ayara Caramundo organization. She has received numerous awards and recognition including the Hutúz Award, the most important Hip Hop award in Latin America. Panmela Castro was the recipient of the 2010 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for Human Rights. The Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards honor and celebrate women leaders who are working to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity and protect human rights around the world. Vital Voices was established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal. It is a leading non-profit organization that identifies, invests in, and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. The Global Leadership Awards are given every year to honor and celebrate women leaders who are working to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights around the world.
In 2006, the first and only law was passed in Brazil to affirm every womans right to live free of domestic violence was a quantum leap forward in a country with a long history of violence in the home. Even so, too many women remained uninformed about the law and didnt understand how to access its protections. A law that isnt known has the same impact as no law at all. Panmela felt compelled to take Marias story into the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Along with other young women artists, musicians, and producers, she formed Rede Nami to educate and inform women of their rights under the law. At workshops throughout the favelas, these women come together to beautify their communities with murals that serve as a constant reminder of the safety and security that every woman deserves. Castro continues to be active through her participation in public events, workshops, social projects and her own artwork. Before signing the back of a canvas, Panmela adds something that distinguishes her work from any other: with a black paint marker, she writes a string of words that hold no meaning in any language. They are meant to signify the unspoken words of every woman who has ever been silenced or abused. To see her as she writes this message, a message she intends for all women, is to understand why she does what she does. This important Brazilian graffiti artist exercises leadership in the feminist movement and the respectability of her work gives her momentum in a world mostly of male artists writing a story with her art, breaking down barriers of labels and preconceptions. Over time she became dedicated to working on the street and developing research on the history of Brazilian graffiti as well as presenting lectures and articles on the topic and serving as the curator. She is the coordinator of the Arts Organisation Rede Nami where social projects already presented at conferences like Durban on combating violence among young people through art in Toronto and "Ignite The Americas," Policy Forum Youth Arts where he occupies the position of regional coordinator.
The Dutch organization, Caramundo, organized a meeting in NoLIMIT Amsterdam Zuidoost with Castro in attendance. The Caramundo organization creates opportunities for motivated youths in poor urban areas in Latin America supporting local, grass-roots youth initiatives that stimulate autonomy and lead to economic self-sufficiency. Their programs focus primarily on arts and sports as a non profit organization operated almost entirely by young volunteers from the Netherlands and Latin America. With this meeting Caramundo wanted to create a dialogue about the possibilities and positive influences of street art and graffiti in a city environment, and demonstrate how other cities in the world already integrate street art in their urban planning. In Brazil, graffiti and street art are used to uplift neglected urban areas and stimulate safety in those areas by involving local residents and by stimulating creativity. Caramundo also participated with Rede Nami in the Man Up! Campaign to combat Violence against Women in Johannesburg, South Africa during the FIFA World Cup. Panmela Castro and Anouk Piket where invited to give a workshop on the methodology to combat violence against women using graffiti in Brazil. In 2009 she had a meeting with ThaÃs Pessotto, director of international relations of the Brazilian Ministery of Culture and at that time met the Minister of Culture of her country, Juca de Oliveira. The meeting was to talk about an official meeting in Brasilia, the capital, with the delegates, Toddy from Sao Paulo and Jaqueline from Recife, where one of the main topics is the possibility of Brazil being the next country to host Ignite the Americas. Ignite the Americas brings together young leaders and artists, cultural policy makers and industry leaders from across OAS Member States, and is an important first step towards building strong partnerships and cultivating new opportunities for cultural, professional, and creative exchange between the youth arts and cultural sectors.
Rede Nami is a feminist urban art network of female artists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that promotes womens rights and works to end violence against women through art. The network, an APC MDG3 Fund small grant recipient, was founded by activist and grafitti artist Panmela Castro. She started Rede Nami because she felt there was a need in the communtiy for a collective of feminist artists to collaborate to reinforce the positive role of women in Brazilian society, to empower women and girls and to end violence against women through their art. With the MDG3 Fund small grant, Rede Nami is training 100 girls to use information and communication technology to create a virtual library with content on violence against women. They are also creating a thematic graffiti mural on the issue to raise awareness about violence against women and womens rights in Brazil with the local community and with lawmakers. The project is playing a large part in educating people about gender equality and domestic violence "subjects that are often difficult to discuss with words because of cultural taboos. - It is not just about putting paint on a wall",
Panmela said. "It is about attitudes - It is a way to break the cultural stereotypes, to make people think and to show that we are free."
In most parts of the world, graffiti is treated as an illegal form of vandalism and a punishable social problem. The people and government of Rio de Janeiro, however, are different. In Brazil, graffiti is not seen as the problem, but part of the solution. Instead of wasting time and energy on arrests and re-painting, the city has worked to engage graffiti artists to turn Rio into a vibrant canvas for positive social messaging and artistic expression. People like Panmela show us how simple it is to transform problems into solutions. They not only bring color and beauty to underserved neighborhoods, but also spread social awareness in a language that is engaging and universal - art.
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