By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Officially launched on August 7th, a new giant graffiti mural in Rio de Janeiro created by well known urban artist and activist, Panmela Castro, celebrates women’s rights and the eighth anniversary of the Maria da Penha Law, a Brazilian law that punishes those who commit violent crimes and domestic abuse against women.
Entitled, Onde há respeito, há paz (Where There is Respect, There is Peace), the mural measures 336m² and is featured on the side of popular venue, Rio Scenarium, located in the city’s Centro (Downtown) district on Lavradio Street, on the edge of Lapa.
The inspiration for the mural came from art created by children in Rio’s public schools. Castro took those ideas and with the help fellow graffiti artists, spent twelve days, from July 26th to August 6th, adding the piece to the wall.
Over 336 spray cans and more than 144 liters of paint were used to create the giant mural. The project was realized with the help of the Avon Institute and the NAMI Rede Feminista de Arte Urbana, an organization founded by Castro, that uses street art, to combat domestic violence and spread awareness of women’s rights in Brazil.
Introduced in 2006, Brazil’s Federal law 11.340 or the Maria da Penha Law as it is more commonly known, was named after a Brazilian woman was left paralyzed for life after a severe beating by her then husband. NAMI Rede began in 2010, after Castro, who in her early twenties was a victim of domestic violence herself, decided to use graffiti to help spread knowledge of the rights woman have in Brazil.
Before the Maria da Penha Law passed, Castro had gone to the police for help with her abusive husband but saw no actions taken. She told told the PBS Newhour program during a July interview that after the passing of the law; “I saw that [preventing domestic violence] was really possible. And this is why I decided to contribute with my community promoting the law and helping out the women. And the tool that I had to do it was graffiti.”
A graduate in painting from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and a holder of a Master of Arts degree from the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), the now thirty-one-year-old Castro is a well known artist in the Rio graffiti scene.
Her works have been visible throughout the city over the years and she has participated in events including, Rio’s urban art festival, Art Rua (Street Art). Additionally, Castro has created works on the streets of São Paulo and internationally in the United States, Germany and France.
As the President of NAMI Rede, Castro helps to create and run graffiti workshops and the ability to create domestic abuse awareness through art. Additionally, with her own classes and workshops, she helps empower women to find their own voices and express themselves with paint and other tools.
To see more of Castro’s work and to learn about her classes and workshops, see her website and for more information about the Rede NAMI and their ongoing workshops and classes, visit their blog. The Where There is Respect, There is Peace mural will remain on the side Rio Scenarium in Centro on Lavradio Street near the corner of Rua Visconde do Rio Branco and is freely visible to the public.