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TEDGlobal 2014

Mundano: Trash cart superheroes

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Views 970,834

In Brazil, "catadores" collect junk and recyclables. But while they provide a vital service that benefits all, they are nearly invisible as they roam the streets. Enter graffiti artist Mundano, a TED Fellow. In a spirited talk, he describes his project "Pimp My Carroça," which has transformed these heroic workers' carts into things of beauty and infused them with a sense of humor. It's a movement that is going global.

- Graffiti artist + activist
Mundano's bold, colorful street art isn't just eye candy. His projects call attention to social, environmental and political issues, while raising chuckles from passersby. Full bio

Our world has many superheroes.
00:13
But they have the worst of
all superpowers: invisibility.
00:16
For example, the catadores,
00:22
workers who collect recyclable
materials for a living.
00:24
Catadores emerged from
social inequality, unemployment,
00:28
and the abundance of solid waste
00:33
from the deficiency of the
waste collection system.
00:36
Catadores provide a heavy,
honest and essential work
00:40
that benefits the entire population.
But they are not acknowledged for it.
00:46
Here in Brazil, they collect 90 percent
of all the waste that's actually recycled.
00:51
Most of the catadores work independently,
00:59
picking waste from the streets and
selling to junk yards at very low prices.
01:02
They may collect over 300 kilos
01:07
in their bags, shopping carts,
bicycles and carroças.
01:10
Carroças are carts
built from wood or metal
01:16
and found in several streets in Brazil,
01:19
much like graffiti and street art.
01:22
And this is how I first met these
marginalized superheroes.
01:24
I am a graffiti artist and activist
01:29
and my art is social, environmental
and political in nature.
01:32
In 2007, I took my work beyond walls
and onto the carroças,
01:38
as a new urban support for my message.
01:43
But at this time,
giving voice to the catadores.
01:46
By adding art and humor to the cause,
it became more appealing,
01:50
which helped call attention
to the catadores
01:55
and improve their self-esteem.
01:58
And also, they are famous now
on the streets, on mass media and social.
01:59
So, the thing is,
02:05
I plunged into this universe
and have not stopped working since.
02:07
I have painted over 200
carroças in many cities
02:11
and have been invited to do exhibitions
and trips worldwide.
02:15
And then I realized that catadores,
in their invisibility,
02:19
are not exclusive to Brazil.
02:23
I met them in Argentina, Chile,
02:25
Bolivia, South Africa, Turkey
02:30
and even in developed countries such
as the United States and Japan.
02:35
And this was when I realized that I needed
to have more people join the cause
02:40
because it's a big challenge.
02:44
And then, I created a collaborative
movement called Pimp My Carroça --
02:46
(Laughter) -- which is
a large crowdfunded event.
02:52
Thank you.
02:56
(Applause).
02:57
So Pimp My Carroça is a large
crowdfunded event
03:00
to help catadores and their carroças.
03:04
Catadores are assisted by well-being
professionals and healthcare,
03:07
like physicians, dentists, podiatrists,
hair stylists, massage therapists
03:11
and much more.
03:18
But also, they also receive safety shirts,
gloves, raincoats and eyeglasses
03:19
to see in high-definition the city,
03:24
while their carroças are renovated
by our incredible volunteers.
03:26
And then they receive safety items, too:
03:31
reflective tapes, horns and mirrors.
03:34
Then, finally, painted by a street artist
03:36
and become part of part of this huge,
amazing mobile art exhibition.
03:39
Pimp My Carroça took to the streets
of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba.
03:44
But to meet the demand in other cities,
including outside of Brazil,
03:50
we have created Pimpx,
which is inspired by TEDx,
03:54
and it's a simplified, do-it-yourself,
crowdfunded edition of Pimp My Carroça.
04:00
So now everybody can join.
04:06
In two years, over 170 catadores,
800 volunteers and 200 street artists
04:09
and more than 1,000 donors
04:17
have been involved in the
Pimp My Carroça movement,
04:19
whose actions have even been used
in teaching recycling at a local school.
04:22
So catadores are leaving
invisibility behind
04:28
and becoming increasingly
respected and valued.
04:32
Because of their pimped carroças,
they are able to fight back to prejudice,
04:35
increase their income and
their interaction with society.
04:40
So now, I'd like to challenge you
to start looking at and acknowledging
04:44
the catadores and other
invisible superheroes from your city.
04:49
Try to see the world as one,
without boundaries or frontiers.
04:53
Believe it or not,
04:58
there are over 20 million
catadores worldwide.
04:59
So next time you see one,
05:05
recognize them as a vital part
of our society.
05:08
Muito obrigado, thank you.
05:13
(Applause).
05:15

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About the speaker:

Mundano - Graffiti artist + activist
Mundano's bold, colorful street art isn't just eye candy. His projects call attention to social, environmental and political issues, while raising chuckles from passersby.

Why you should listen

Mundano is a Brazilian street artist and activist whose work makes people stop and think about the issues swirling around them everyday. In 2007, he began using his graffiti skills to paint "carroças," the wooden and metal carts used by the trash collectors throughout Brazil who haul off junk and recyclables. He painted 200 carroças and in the process made these invisible superheroes visible—not only in the streets, but also in the media. The effort led to "Pimp My Carroça," which made this initiative do-it-yourself, crowdfunded and global. It has brought in 170 trash collectors in cities around the world, teaming them up with 200 street artists and 800 volunteers. It is quickly becoming a movement.

At home in Brazil, Mundano works on other projects too. Since 2008, he has used the posters and banners that plaster Brazilian cities during elections to create thought-provoking art. For the election in 2014, he turned these enormous plastic banners into a giant voting booth filled with waste in a square in Rio de Janeiro. "I use these ads to get people to reflect on the corrupted political system. On all the false promises, and all the awful waste," he explains.

More profile about the speaker
Mundano | Speaker | TED.com