On May 10, Brazilian artist Paulo Ito posted this mural on the doors of a schoolhouse in São Paulo’s Pompeia district. Less than a week later, it has become an international sensation, drawing huge attention on Facebook. It has also taken off in Brazil—a post on the popular Facebook page TV Revolta has been shared and liked more than 40,000 times.*
I first saw the image when The Nation’s Dave Zirin posted it on Twitter. The portrait of a weeping, starving Brazilian child with nothing to eat but a soccer ball is so simple and evocative that you don’t need to know much about Brazil to wrap your head around it. All you have to understand is that despite massive gains made over the past decade, poverty levels are still appallingly high, and the World Cup is costing the nation billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere.
“People already have the feeling and that image condensed this feeling,” the São Paulo-based Ito told me in an interview today. He says he’s never created anything so popular in his 14 years as a street artist, and was surprised by the powerful response. “The truth is there is so much wrong in Brazil that it is difficult to know where to start,” he explained via Facebook chat. “I didn’t mean [to say] nobody is doing anything against poverty,” he said of the mural. “But we need to show the world or ourselves that the situation is still not good.”