Where? Rio de Janeiro
When? August 2010
The night before I left Rio, Anarkia had a little bon voyage party for me and I finally got a chance to speak with the fiery pixadora Ana. She shared her thoughts on community, pixação, self-expression, feminism, art vs vandalism, getting shot by police, and why pixação is so different than graffiti.
Jess: Ok, so can you just tell me a little bit about your name and how you got started?
Ana: My name is Ana, which is the same as my real name. I started around 2001 when the movement started but really I began around 1999. I began with a group of three other boys at school. We wanted to make Pixação as a joke, just like Free, but in 2001 I really got involved with the actual movement.
Jess: Do you think you could talk a little bit more about how it started as a joke? Because it seems like Free and yourself all refer to this word “joke” when you speak about how you started.
Ana: Everyone say this because it’s a reality here. Everybody when beginning Pixação just thinks its fun and stuff. But when you become a real Pixador in the movement you get to know the people and begin to interact with everyone and it’s powerful. It’s like a profession. And when you get involved in the movement, that thing that was just a joke becomes a priority against studying and work. Nothing else matters besides Pixação. And if you think it’s just a joke then we are not getting our point across. Because if you’re not really “professional” about it, the others will have more names than you. You have to really do it.
Jess: That’s like graffiti. It’s the whole purpose behind graffiti to live it and be it all the time or else you are not the king. So you’re coming on ten years doing Pixação, right? What would you say has changed?
Ana: Well in 2002 Anarkia and I met, and we realized that other girls were doing the same thing. And maybe you have heard this from the other girls, but the boys would put us up against each other to try to cause fights. But in these ten years, the fight about Pixação and the boys trying to get us fighting and stuff, we don’t have any more of this. Pixação is a unit now. In the past we had fights, but not anymore. In the past, in the taggers meetings, we always, always had fights. Now everybody is a unit and the boys go to the parties with their wives and we are all a unit.
Jess: So, when you say meeting do you mean a party? Or is it like the writer’s bench in graffiti?
Ana: In graffiti, we have a meeting where everyone meets at the wall and makes graffiti like a jam. But in Pixação, we have a meeting where everyone gets together and talks and signs each other’s books and stuff. But nowadays we have parties and barbeques and talk about Pixação. It’s a kind of different meeting.
Jess: So, what is the value of that kind of party? Community-building? What is the point of Pixação?
Ana: It’s something that we have during the week one day. This kind of party is special because people can go there and meet other people in Pixação and learn how to do this kind of text and stuff. The importance of Pixação is different from generation to generation. But the one thing that stays the same is the idea that Pixação is something that you do to put a part of yourself outside of yourself.
Jess: That makes sense because a lot of people talk about marking their identity in graffiti. So you’re saying that Pixação is a way to express your identity differently than how you do in your everyday life. So, would you say that what you mark on the wall expresses your identity in some way?
Ana: People don’t know how to express the answer to the question, why is it that you do Pixação? But it is because it is your identity on the wall. They see your name on the wall when you do Pixação.
Jess: So before I start asking my feminism questions, I just wanted to ask you about [make up a name of your choice cause it’s confidential yo! let’s call her X]. Did you go painting with her, what is your relationship? Do you see a difference in her between when she was actively painting and now?
Ana: I met X when I was going out with this one guy, but we have a lot of friends in common. As I learned things about X, I realized that I was a girl like her who was unafraid to make Pixação and go out and do these things. It’s like a deception to see X now. I know how much power she has, but we are seeing that she is taking all of her power and putting it in the garbage. And we always try to help her, but it doesn’t happen. It hurts us because we really admire her and like her and know that she’s a good girl. It’s her choice, though, and we can’t do anything more.
Jess: So this leads me to my next question, which is: what do you think the value of Nami is for women like X?
Ana: I think that Rede Nami is important to show these kinds of girls that they are not alone. If they really need help and want help then we are here for them to help them in their situation. And we also want to show that they don’t really need a male to help them, that we can do it by ourselves.
Jess: Well the way that I see Rede Nami in my head is as a feminist collective where women come together to help each other help themselves. Do you consider yourself a feminist? And what does feminism mean to you?
Ana: I do consider myself a feminist but not that old kind of feminist. More like a personal kind of feminist. First, because of my profession, I am like the first woman mechanical engineer. Not the first one, but there are not many. And second, because of Pixação. Because we don’t have girls in Pixação. This is why I think I’m a feminist, because I’m a girl but I do things that only men are supposed to do. I don’t like when people say that things are not for me because I’m a woman. I can do whatever I want whether I’m a boy or a girl. I think that a feminist woman is one that does not agree with the idea that women do certain things and men do other things. A feminist does not agree with this.
Jess: And what is your role exactly in Nami?
Ana: I don’t do anything, haha. We are organizing the network, and many of the girls don’t know what to do but we are preparing things that girls like me can work on, girls who are involved in Pixação but not graffiti. Rede Nami is still trying to find a role for girls who don’t do graffiti. But I will be a part of discussions and I’ll be involved in the reproductive rights activism that kind of stuff. I work a lot with kids and they think I’m good for controlling the teenagers. There is work for all the women. Also, I’m being put to work to take care of some of the money. There are 30 girls in Rede Nami who are not involved in graffiti at all, and we are trying to find a place for them like as photographers, psychologists, and this kind of stuff. There were a lot of girls like me that were totally uninvolved in graffiti but we still want to be involved even though we will never, ever, ever in our life do graffiti, haha! It’s very expensive to make graffiti. In Rio the monthly salary is like 500 a month, but to make a graffiti it costs like 100 to do it!
Jess: When did you start learning graffiti?
Ana: I didn’t start, I just want to start one day maybe. I made a cloud and put my name on it to be a part of the wall, haha. But I probably won’t start because I don’t have paint.
Jess: Is there anything that you want to make sure people know about what you do, or about the movement in general? Anything that you think I should have asked?
Ana: The problem with Pixação is that people just do their name. They have to get a social problem and make it a project to make Pixação important. In the beginnings, it was about protection under the dictatorship. People expressed themselves against the way things were going and there was a social connection. Now, Pixação is just about writing one’s name on the wall. But I think that Pixação has to have a social meaning behind it.
Jess: Why do you feel that way? Why can’t it just be art, why does it need a social meaning?
Ana: Because I think that in this way people will understand us more and society will see Pixação not just as vandalism. One day Anarkia and I were planning to do some tagging and we were talking about what we should say to the police if they came. So we said, oh we should tell them that we’re doing a project about women’s rights for the cause of the feminists. It’s funny because really we were just writing our name. For society, Pixadores don’t have any difference from robbers and criminals other people that society hates. But there is a difference between graffiti and Pixação. Pixação is seen as vandalism, but graffiti is seen as art.
Jess: Oh, so that reminds me—do you have any stories about any dangerous situations? I hear that actually its very common to get shot doing Pixação. In the United States when people are doing graffiti in the subway, sometimes the writer won’t stop when the cops are chasing them and then the police will shoot at the kids but it’s a very big deal and it rarely happens.
Ana: There was one time when I was shot one year ago. Everyone was saying don’t hit her, and it was aimed for a car, but I was hit. It was me and three other guys in a place that was like residential. I wrote on a lot of places where everyone would see my name. It’s not like an invasion because I went into the residential area but not into the houses. Everyone put their names on the windows. The boy in the house opened the windows and started screaming and shooting. The boy got in the car and I tripped and fell. At this time the police spotted me and two other guys and we had to get down on the floor for like an hour and half. The police made us get out all our money and then we were able to get up and retrieve our spray cans. I didn’t want to get the cans, though, because one of the guys was really addicted and he would want to continue making the tags. But if the police got us again it would be a problem.
Jess: So does a situation like that scare you? How do you come back from that and continue to make Pixação?
Ana: I can’t answer why I continue to do Pixação after this incident. I just know that it’s a part of my life. It’s a way to be a part of the life of my friends, to be with them. Today I don’t do the same things that I was doing last year, but I won’t stop doing it. Even if I wanted to stop doing Pixação, I wouldn’t be able to because I’m addicted. Anarkia and I stopped doing it, her in 2002 and me in 2004, but because of the Internet we started up again because of all the pixadores and the community on the Internet.
Jess: Here in Brazil you’re literally risking your life to do Pixação. That is a serious commitment. Do you think that that’s why the boys are supportive of you girls?
Ana: Yes. We are really risking our life. In other countries, if people are caught, they will go to jail. Here, if people are caught, they will die. If I’m caught doing a train, I’ll die—I won’t just go to jail. People can rape us. People can kill us. Do you remember when you and Anarkia were talking about the militia? Well, now if you are caught doing graffiti in the militia’s space, you will be killed.
Jess: You know, talking to Free was really inspiring to me because she’s like in her forties and she’s still doing Pixação! So I was wondering if you think that you and Anarkia will still be doing it when you’re forty?
Ana: I think yes, but we will know less people doing it. But there will still be people coming back home to do Pixação and they will be a part of our lives forever. These people that are our real friends, maybe we will stop or not but these people will always have an influence on us to start up again. If we stop making our name in the world, we will be unknown.
Jess: You said that you’re one of the first or only female mechanical engineers, around here, right?
Ana: Well I’m studying to be an engineer but really right now I’m a technician. But I don’t know any women who do that.
Jess: Right. So, how does it make you feel to be in Pixação and in your professional field as a woman?
Ana: In Pixação in the past we had to dress like males and they boys wouldn’t help us or anything. But now it’s different. Our generation is different from three generations ago. In our generation we try to put our tags up as high as possible, and boys think that we can’t do it. And now boys see that because girls like me and Anarkia did it, that girls can do it too. Anarkia was one of the first ones doing the tags up top and then girls saw it and wanted to do it too, and the boys saw it and respected her for it and now they help other girls to tag up top too.
Jess: I’m out of questions, but do you have any kind of message for other girls who are interested in doing Pixação or graffiti?
Ana: It’s really hard to say something about this because your research is for women experiencing a different reality than Pixação. But I would like to say that I feel good making Pixação and I think I will never stop.