All photos by Austin Audru
On the east side of São Paulo is a neighborhood which was once rife with trouble. São Mateus lacked funding from the government and had absolutely no cultural centers, cinemas, of any kind of gallery, according to the city’s ‘Map of Inequality’ – a study elaborated by NGO Nossa São Paulo. That was until the OPNI street art collective began transforming the neighborhood itself into an art gallery.
OPNI is a graffiti group founded by two brothers, Toddy and Val, in the late 1990s. The acronym stands for “Unidentified tagging object,” a play on OVNI, the way UFO is written in Portuguese. The name is a reference to the fact that people involved in graffiti in São Paulo must lay low and hide from police, and also that São Mateus and its residents are ‘invisible’ to the government.