Experiments with Truth: Analysis

São Paulo water crisis is source of wave of Brazilian art activism

A grey minivan rattled through São Paulo’s hilly suburbs, loaded with spray cans, paint rollers, buckets and a ladder as five street artists drove to the Atibainha river, rap lyrics blaring from their speakers.

On the sweltering afternoon of 26 February, they painted colourful protest murals on the legs of a bridge that crosses one of São Paulo’s most important water sources, nestled in the Serra da Cantareira mountain range.

Months earlier, as fears of drought loomed over the region, Thiago Mundano had tagged the words “Welcome to the Cantareira desert” on to an abandoned car under the same bridge. That image became an icon of crisis as water supplies fell to a historic low and taps ran dry in South America’s largest city.

“My idea was to show people how much water we are losing and that São Paulo will be a desert soon,” the artist explained. “Photographers started taking pictures and it became a way of measuring the water. There are many images with different levels.”

More Follow External Link to Frederick Bernas, The Guardian