Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Pee Wall Scrubbed

There's this stone wall I know well. Located at the entrance to Aterro in Flamengo, it's just the right height for stretching hamstrings after a run along the beach. Only thing is, it stinks of pee. On the odd day that it doesn't, it is still a prime example of urban skank, covered in ugly tags, straggled stray cats, empty cans and food containers. I stretch there anyway.

Today my wall had a crowd. At its center, a group of young guys dressed in their Sunday best. Over crisply creased chinos, button-up shirts and polished leather loafers, they wore full-on Hazmat garb - lab goggles, masks, gloves and bright blue aprons. Some held scrubbing brushes, others yellow atomizers or high-pressure hoses. They stood at a distance from the wall (to save their shoes) while they forcefully scrubbed and sprayed at it.

They had an entourage: Prefeitura employees in their distinctive orange jump suits; men in suits giving instructions; members of the local residents association. It turns out the young guys were convicted vandals and taggers who, unable to pay a fine, had been sentenced to community service cleaning walls. A church had something to do with it too (hence the ridiculous dress code) but I'm not sure what. In any case, it seems that with the World Cup and the Olympics on the horizon, Rio's council is trying to get a head start with the clean-up effort.

My wall will get a layer of varnish to help it repel future tags. Yay to that! The anger I feel when I see vandalism just makes me realise how much I love this city. The lack of respect some people here have for their environment can be outstanding.

Interestingly, this whole scene was taking place less than 100 metres from an underpass which was graffitied last weekend. Rio law, however, makes a clear distinction between taggers ("bad") and graffiti artists ("good"), and I totally agree...

Stay tuned for a graffiti safari.


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