We’ve been hearing plenty about Rio’s Olympic woes in the build up to the 2016 games, but there’s actually more to Latin America’s second olympics than Zika, police brutality, and dead bodies. In fact, a Cidade Maravilhosa has been following in the footsteps of previous host cities and reimagining their urban infrastructure with a massive $2.9 billion overhaul.
A highway demolition, new tunnels and pedestrian walkways, along with new water, electricity, and drainage systems are all designed to bring life back to the city’s dilapidated waterfront port area. And to put a bow on the whole initiative, Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra is throwing up a monumental 32,000-square-foot mural inspired by the Olympics.
Entitled “We Are All One”, the new piece features the faces of indigenous people from the five continents of the world. Rendered in the Olympics’ blue, green, black, and red color scheme, the mural employs Kobra’s signature kaleidoscopic style over photorealistic portraits representing the Tapajó people of the Brazilian Amazon, the Mursi of Ethiopia, Thailand’s Karen people, and the Huli of Papua New Guinea.
After taking 15 days to prep the wall on the city’s waterfront, Kobra and his team have been working 11 hour days in order to have the mural up in time for the Olympics Opening Ceremony on August 5. Asked about the significance of his work, Kobra made reference to growing intolerance across the world. “Look at Europe, where people are rejecting refugees, rejecting what is different,” he said in a recent interview. “I hope this mural, in the Olympic spirit, will help remind us that we are all different but all one: the human race.”
Unfortunately, like so much street art, Kobra’s optimistic work comes on the heels of forced evictions and other controversial tactics that carry the familiar odor of aggressive gentrification. We can only hope Brazil’s new waterfront district, with its hopeful artistic centerpiece, ends up benefitting all Brazilians equally.