Who? Si Caramujo
Where? Lapa, Rio de Janeiro Brazil
When? August 2010
I get to meet some of the most incredible people, and Si is by far one of them. I remember feeling the peace in her presence instantly—it was infectious. And the Goddess she painted that day in Lapa was a perfect manifestation of her presence and of all the things we spoke about before the graffiti jam began. Si shares her insights on pregnancy and motherhood, feminism, the importance of celebrating indigenous aesthetics in her art, how she feels when she paints, sexuality, respect, and hip hop.
JESS: Can you tell me a little bit about how you started and how you came to have your name…how you started tagging, and just some basic info?
SI: I began graffiti when I was 15 but back then my name wasn’t Si. I started doing it alone on the train line doing throw-ups. Then I began to know the people and I found my name, Si, because it’s from my own name. Si, it’s simple. Not a simple name, but that I don’t need lots of stuff to live. My name is Si Caramujo. Caramujo is a snail. It has its own home and it likes to be by itself. I have all I need. The Caramujo is like me. Slow, not fast, but going. My style is not something wonderful or marvelous, but it’s my style and it’s a definite style.
JESS: Right, people can recognize it.
SI: It’s a dedicated style. You can see that a girl made it. It’s a feminine style.
JESS: And did you always paint so that people would know that a girl made it?
SI: Yes. I like painting Brazilian characters, like indigenous people and girls from the jungle. I paint with my soul.
JESS: So, how did you get into graffiti to begin with?
SI: It’s natural. I was born with this talent. When I was a kid I drew on the walls and stuff. I don’t want to say too much, but I began because I was hanging out with the girls doing graffiti and then I started.
JESS: So what year did you start graffiti?
JESS: There’s something about that time, like 2001-2005 that all the girls that I’ve talked with…that’s when they’ve started.
SI: Because graffiti has just been in Rio for about 10 years.
JESS: So if graffiti in Rio has just been here for about ten years, then all the girls were there when it started. But not just two or three, there were a lot of girls on the forefront. So, do you think that you’re a feminist? And what is your definition of feminism?
SI: Yes, I’m a feminist. But our role to be a feminist should be in the streets doing graffiti when I go out alone, but at home I am like a mother—like the Virgin mother.
JESSL: I’m interested in that split, because it’s like being two people.
SI: At home I’m a traditional girl, but I’m different in the streets when I make graffiti. I’m a different kind of girl.
JESS: So how does it make you feel to do graffiti?
SI: I feel calm, relaxed. I like it.
JESS: So I want to know how it was when you were pregnant, because you’re still painting. So, did you stop?
SI: The three first months I didn’t paint because the baby was forming. But to be pregnant is not to be sick—I can do things. The baby cannot be all the time with the mother anyway, it’s not good for them. My husband helps me a lot with the baby when I go to make graffiti. We met in graffiti so he knows how hard it is.
JESS: Oh, so your husband still goes out and paints too and he’s supportive. That’s great.
SI: I have my own life, and I have to do my own things. We have to be a lot of woman to work and to paint and take care of the baby, but we can do it because women are marvelous and we can still take care of the baby. Woman can do more than men and we can make more things than men. It depends on the woman and the man. Some men are very poor at it.
JESS: We have a famous feminist quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that says: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” So what does being a part of Rede Nami do for you?
SI: Well all the girls meet and get to know each other and we’re still doing graffiti.
JESS: So it keeps them going, it keeps the women painting. When you started, were you supported by the people around you? What was your experience starting out as a woman?
SI: The boys always respected me and asked me to come and supported me. Sometimes they just wanted to paint with boys, but they respected me. Sometimes I don’t do good things in the world and my husband says “Oh, you can do better.” But I didn’t start to paint because of this boy. I was a graffiti girl and I found him through painting. I got in the workshop and the teachers stopped the workshop to have fun and didn’t care about the student. I got revolted with this and began my own stuff in the street. I always knew my husband and I liked him, but we didn’t talk or anything. The other boys always asked to paint with me, but not because they wanted to paint with me, because they want to get with me. My husband called me to paint with me and I said, “If you are asking me to paint just to kiss me… just stop now.” And then he was like, oh, now I don’t know if I can ask her out! One time I was in a bus going to paint with a guy and he tried to kiss me and I was like ahh stop! Haha! In this way women lose because boys ask girls to paint just to have something with the girls. But I know how to earn my own respect.
JESS: Do you have any stories about going out by yourself? Anything dangerous happening? Were you scared? How do you dress going out at night?
SI: I always go in the streets with clothes that don’t get too much attention and that cover my whole self. I never got into a dangerous situation because the police like me and my graffiti, haha. I have a nice face so people think that I’m innocent, haha. This is why my name is caramujo, because I just go along doing my thing.
JESS: Do you see a relationship between graffiti and hip-hop?
SI: Yea, it’s a part of my life. But I like tagging more. Because when you say hip-hop here it’s not like the movement, it’s the music. I know that it’s a movement, but when you say it here people just think you’re talking about rap and hip-hop music. My graffiti is part of one of the four elements of hip-hop, though.
JESS: Is there anything else you want to tell us, like a feminist message for girls who are interested in doing graffiti?
SI: Be happy and be what you are. Never go with the mind of the other people.
JESS: Great, thank you!