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Brazilian Graffiti artist uses Lolita to capture history of ‘others’

On Thursday, renowned Brazilian graffiti artist Michael Devis showed the people of Noida how street art can be used to preserve one’s history and provide a voice to the ‘others’.

noida Updated: Dec 07, 2017 20:21 IST
Vaibhav Jha
Vaibhav Jha
Hindustan Times
Brazilian graffiti artist Michael Devis,graffiti artist Michael Devis,graffitti
Renowned Brazilian graffiti artist Michael Devis alongside one of his works displayed at KK Modi Education Group Institute in Noida on Thursday. (Sunil Ghosh /HT Photo)

‘Art for art’s sake’ may no longer hold true, for this man’s street art is also history captured on walls.

On Thursday, renowned Brazilian graffiti artist Michael Devis showed the people of Noida how street art can be used to preserve one’s history and provide a voice to the ‘others’.

Graffiti art has a long history of being a platform for artists to work for the ‘people’, make a stand against the establishment and express unfiltered, raw opinion.

On Thursday morning, the 32-year-old Brazilian arrived at KK Modi Education Group Institute in Noida to display some of his works, share his inputs, listen to the young audience and, maybe,add their stories to his canvas.

He displayed his ‘Indian’ work depicting an elderly woman resting against a banyan tree while narrating stories from a book to the wild animals of a forest.

Brazilian graffiti artist Michael Devis shows the audience how he brings a canvas to life. (Sunil Ghosh /HT Photo)

“I have been inspired by the Panchtantra Tales and my canvas portrays an elderly woman narrating stories of wisdom to animals — an elephant, squirrel, pig, fox and a swan. The canvas also has a lion resting at the far end, not bothered with the storytelling. The canvas is a moral lesson in itself — always pay attention to what your elders say,” Devis said.

His artworks are rich with oral history and the most intriguing element in each of his work is his muse, Lolita.

Although ‘Lolita’ shot to fame with the Russian American novelist Vladimir Nabokov 1955 novel by the same name and then a feature film, in alternate history, Lolita also refers to the cult group in Japan in the 1980s and 90s when young women started dressing up in Victorian style in an attempt to thwart patriarchal notions that had set certain rules for them.

For this artist, Lolita refers to the strong, bull-headed women who refuse the diktats of the patriarchs. It’s a word he carries with pride — as a tattoo on his body and as insignias on his backpack and shoes.

“I stayed in Japan for four years where I was hugely inspired by Lolita women. Lolita women are present in my paintings in one form or another. When I juxtapose different cultures, then they become the Old Mother- a woman full of wisdom who is a symbol of strength and power. Even in the Panchatantra canvas, I have shown a Lolita woman resting her back against a banyan tree which refers to power,” Devis explained.

Devis’s work speaks on behalf of the ‘others’ — the ones whom history rendered silent, the ones who never got to write about their culture, folklore, attire, way of living and art.

Devis spray-paints on their behalf, connecting the colonised worlds on his canvas and providing a ‘juxtaposed’ platform for the marginalised.

His works resemble forgotten young faces of Japanese women who have an African complexion and are adorned with exotic jewellery of the Panama islands and the embroidery work of Ecuador set against Indian forests.

The artist believes that the history of colonised nations is fluid and with art, people can share their cultures and
lessen the long history of
sufferings.

“Art became the refuge of the native people when the era of colonisation was over in Latin America. There were no jobs and no hope in these countries and it was then that the people picked up music, street art and sports as something to look forward to. Although we speak Portuguese in Brazil, our culture is inspired by the Africans who came there as slaves,” Devis said.

An artist for the past two decades, Devis’ works are spread across 12 countries, connecting the fluid history of the colonised countries and subjugated masses and providing them a voice with his spray-paint cans

First Published: Dec 07, 2017 20:21 IST