Last month, grafiteiras Panmela Castro and Artha Baptista from our former Grantee Partner Rede Nami paid a visit to the Mama Cash office. Rede Nami uses graffiti and street art in Rio de Janeiro to promote women’s rights. Their reason for visiting? They wanted to brighten up our cantina with a beautiful graffiti mural.
Mama Cash supported Rede Nami in 2011 and 2012. It was the first grant Rede Nami ever received. Panmela Castro, founder of Rede Nami, told us in an interview: “It was the first time someone believed in our work, and made it happen.”
Rede Nami hosts graffiti workshops in schools, organisations, businesses, and especially in disadvantaged communities where this art form is used as a tool for communication. By doing so, they create awareness, promote gender equality, and aim to end violence against women. Rede Nami also advocates for adolescent girls’ and young women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.
When Rede Nami applied for a grant, it was initially to finance these workshops: “When we applied in 2011, we were not a formal organisation yet. We were just a group of graffiti girls, trying to do workshops in schools. Unfortunately it was naïve of us to think that the government would permit these kind of things.”
At that time Rede Nami did not get the authorisation to give workshops inside of the schools. They had to go to parallel places in the communities. But the support of Mama Cash still made a big difference to the organisation:
Thanks to the support of Mama Cash we grew enormously. Now we have all the right papers and knowledge that is necessary for our work. And most importantly, it has enabled us to let the girls do the projects, instead of ourselves.
Panmela Castro once started herself, under the name of Anarkia, as graffiti artist. Back then she already noticed a lot of organisations were doing graffiti projects with different groups in the community. The problem with these organisations was that they wanted to keep themselves in a position of power. They tended to tell the youngsters exactly what to do, and not giving them any artistic freedom.
“I thought by myself, no, I want to explore my own ideas! This is also how, when I started with Rede Nami, I knew when to stop giving my ideas, and let the girls do the thinking.”
It is of great importance for Rede Nami that the girls are in a position of power, and that they have the control over what they make. Panmela Castro says about this:
“Even now that we are a formal organisation, the girls still decide! There were definitely times when we saw we were losing this structure. Then we made sure that we gave the power back to the girls as soon as possible. Only they should decide what is good for them.
Rede Nami, and especially Panmela Castro, has received international recognition for her work as a graffiti artist and as a women’s rights activist. For instance, in 2012 she was chosen by Newsweek Magazine as 1 of the 50 ‘Women who Shake the World’, and she received the Hutúz Award for Graffiti Artist of the Decade, which is the most prominent hip-hop award in Latin America.
“Today my work, and the work I’m doing with Rede Nami and the girls, is very well known. Everybody believes in it, and wants to support it. But the first one who believed in our work, and saw the importance of it was Mama Cash. The fact that Mama Cash took that first step has been of inestimable value to us. If they hadn’t supported us then, maybe we never would have had the possibility to help so many women.”
On the 20th of July the smell of paint permeated the Mama Cash office for several hours. On this boiling hot day, Panmela Castro completely transformed one of the walls in our cantina, in only a few hours. And the result is magnificent.
Nicky McIntyre, executive director of Mama cash: "Seeing how much this group has grown, and seeing all the acknowledgement they are getting now, makes us incredibly proud. We are very happy and grateful that the wall in our cantina can now be a little part of their spirit, ambition and hard work."