Maria Raquel is a young woman who got into graffiti a few years ago in Brazil. She lives in Belo Horizonte and her graffiti character, known as “bolinho” (cupcake) can be seen everywhere in the city. Global Looking Glass talked to her to know more about these beautiful and colorful treats she draws.
When and why did you start doing graffiti?
I started in 2009 because my boyfriend was already into graffiti, and I used to love going out with him to paint. At that time, I didn’t think about painting by myself because I never had drawing skills. But after going out with him for a short time, I decided to create something to represent me, to let my own mark in the streets.
How did the idea of having a cupcake (“bolinho” in Portuguese) as your main subject come to you?
When I decided to do graffiti, I was looking for a drawing that wasn’t so complicated to do and especially [something] that reflects me somehow. So, I was thinking about doing something food related, because I really love to cook (and to eat). I thought about things I love, like… pizza, candies, cakes, and the cupcakes [seemed] like an obvious choice [because it’s] the kind of food that is just as pretty as it is tasteful. Cupcakes have an incredible visual appeal that is almost impossible to resist. Also, there is a huge variety of colors and shapes…you won’t find [in] any other kind of food.
Do you think graffiti can be a social tool?
Yes, I think it can work like that in many ways. Here in Brazil, there are many projects to teach graffiti to poor kids…to give them a future far away from criminality. I think it’s helpful not to teach them [graffiti as] a profession, but to introduce graffiti to them as a form of art. You give kids the opportunity to learn about different ways to express themselves and also to become more sensitive.
Have you ever had any problems while painting your “bolinho” anywhere?
Just minor problems, but nothing to worry about [or anything that would] make me even think about stop painting. The things that happen on the streets, even the problems, are the fun part of making graffiti.
Your “bolinho” seems to be quite popular on the Internet, too. Why do you think so many people like your page on Facebook and follow you online?
Nowadays the Internet is an important tool to show your work to people from all over the world. I think people like my page because they identify themselves with the [“bolinho”] character. I always try to create different drawings, with different positions, different expressions because there will be one that will look just like you and I think people just like something that makes them remember of themselves.
Which aspects of graffiti do you like most?
The most interesting thing [about] graffiti is that since you’re using an urban and open space, everyone can have access to it, [whether] you like it or not! [as opposed to] other kinds of art. I think graffiti is something that belongs to everyone. At the time I finish it, it’s not mine anymore. It belongs to the street or to anyone who likes it. (Editor’s Note: Generally in Brazil, people have to pay to go to museums and galleries or to study art. Most of Brazil’s universities are private and it is very difficult to get into the public ones. Therefore, the study of and access to art is not easily available to the poor.)
Do you think graffiti is art or crime?
I think today people see graffiti as a form of art. There are so many exhibitions in big galleries with pieces of graffiti or made by graffiti artists. It’s art when it’s a form of expression, when it’s made to provoke people. But at the same time, I think that [once it is seen as art, it] loses the characteristics of graffiti in its origins: graffiti made in unauthorized places, as a way to protest, to manifest their unhappiness with their social condition and politics.