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Brazilian Urban Artist Alexsandra Ribiero Visits Tucson, Speaks About Social Justice, Feminism, and Art

Alexsandra Ribiero paints on the CLAS patio. 



By Emily Ellis 


A group of six young artists march down a sunny street in Fortaleza, paint and ladders in hand, in a short documentary about urban art in Brazil. They set up by a large concrete wall. As the men paint creatures and geometric designs, the single woman in the group kneels by the wall, a colorful portrait of a beautiful black woman blooming under her can of spray-paint.    


Alexsandra Ribiero has been decorating the streets of Fortaleza, a large coastal city in northeastern Brazil,  with such portraits for nearly a decade, making her literal mark in a male-dominated field. The artist recently visited the University of Arizona as a guest of the departments of Latin American Studies and Spanish and Portuguese, where she gave several presentations discussing her experience as a black, feminist urban artist in Fortaleza. The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) launched a Brazil Studies Initiative in 2017 that has allowed them to bring guests and speakers like Ribiero to Tucson.


Ribiero, who works as a social educator with at-risk youth in Fortaleza, also held art workshops for students at Pueblo, Puebla, and Catalina High Schools in Tucson. Several undergraduate students at CLAS will work with Ribiero over the summer, during their study abroad internships at CUCA, a community development center in Fortaleza.


CLAS sat down with Ribiero to ask about her work and her experience in Tucson.


Q: What inspires your art?  


A: What inspires me is really my everyday life.  . . It’s a vehicle for me to express what it is to me to be a black woman in Brazil.


Q: What was your experience like visiting high schools in Tucson?


A: It’s not very different from what I do and what I see in Brazil. I didn’t see much different in the struggles that this age group experience, and how they cope with that. I was kind of surprised by how similar they were to the students I work with in Brazil. The thing that really stood out to me was their relationship with art - even though I can’t speak English and they can’t speak Portuguese, I was amazed at how they communicated through the process of doing art, like a language in itself.


Q: Why do you think collaborating with institutions abroad is important?


A: The most important thing is that organizations here and in Brazil can communicate and exchange ideas, and come up with new ones.


Q: What do you think about the urban art in Tucson?


A: It’s very different than what there is in Brazil. It’s really part of the reality of Tucson. There are some commonalities in all graffiti art, but there’s something really distinct about the art in Tucson.  


Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your time in Tucson?


A: It’s been intense, but it’s been really rewarding to be here, to have this experience and do this exchange.


Two of Ribiero’s paintings, which she made for the Center for Latin American Studies, can be viewed in the Marshall Building, Suite 280.