Mafia 44 – Twice as Crazy

Mafia 44 – Twice as Crazy

By Arden de Raaij

And the love from Brasil just keeps flowing in these days! Talented photographer and good friend Gui Christ (with who we did a feature not too long ago: Gui C – The Intense Brasilian Experience) has gotten us in touch with one of the hottest graffiti crews from Rio de Janeiro: Mafia 44. He showed us one of their works based on one of his portraits and we were instantly sold by their amazing work. Thanks a million to Gui for doing the whole translation of the interview, Ratão Diniz for providing us with the photography and ofcourse to Mafia 44!

Who are Mafia44?
The “Mafia44” is a Rio de Janeiro street art group and its name comes from the words “Mafia” and 44 is from a Brazilian reference to the number 22 that represents the nut people, so at this case we´re two times crazier than the ordinary people.

How did everyone from Mafia 44 came together?
In 2006, at the beginning it was only two guys: Davi and Dee and the group name was MafiaNiteroi (in reference to one of Rio’s neighbor city) where we lived and used to make our paintings. Sometime later entered to the team Gut and Mutant, who were from another city and we had to change the groups name to “Mafia”. After the entrance of two other guys, Goaboy and Bata the group started using the number 44. Our last crew member is Pakato.

We got together because we had the same ideas about graffiti and a common will to make something different and to increase our personal skills together.

How Important is photography for Mafia 44?
The photography is important in many ways. As our work is so ephemeral, the only thing that really remains at the end are just the documentation photos and at the end of 2008 we befriended with some social reality documentary photographers. The first one was Ratão Diniz, then Marcelo Valle, Gui Christ and Fabio Caffe.

Ratão is a very important friend to us, as he’s always photographing our work and that’s really good for us as we don’t have to stop to make a shot, we also can get really concentrated at the paiting and we have a professional documentation from our process.

All the photographers we’re connected to have works about the popular culture and social reality difference which guided us to a urban culture research starting from Graffiti .
At the beginning of this year, we started a new step with the photographers partnership, when we used Ratão Diniz‘s photo about a mother and her daughter as reference to a new painting. With Goaboy, we worked out at the composition then we choose a wall in a poor local community.

The final result after two Rio de Janeiro intense hot working days, were many laughs and great pictures….and Graffiti of course! This work became really famous around and encouraged us to work even more on other projects like that.

Where is Mafia 44 based?
Nowadays we’re Just working in Rio, as we are a new group but some members have already worked in São Paulo. We are trying to work all our city around, from the most famous and richest quarter to the most forgotten poor community.

Is there a message involved, in the art-works of Mafia 44?
There is also a main message or a concept in our paintings or other case we would be asking to each other what we were supposed to do.
After some time together, we have a great rapport which really helps us but sometimes we make some painting just for fun, as we paint searching the happiness.

Do you prefer Montana Barcelona (hardcore) or Montana Germany spray cans?
Well…we’re in Brazil. Here you make three times less money than in Europe and the paint costs three times more. Sometimes we can’t choose the best ones…the best paint is the one you can buy.
Here in Rio, the German Montana is more usual to be found, but when there is the Spanish one it’s also welcome. I’m curious about the new Montana paint line, the 94. There’re also some local brands, but they can’t be compared to Montana.

Do you prefer to do your work legal or illegal?
Legalized, obviously! I know about the Graffiti Police in Europe and IF it was a Police like that here we could be dead as it’s really violent but fortunately here the policemen respect what we’re doing in the streets. Maybe it’s caused by the Brazilian people’s cultural need that really enjoys to see the paintings.
There’re also many illegal paintings here, but we prefer work peacefully!

How is the Graffiti scene in Rio?
It’s increasing everyday! There’re some great local artists with several different styles, from the Bomb lovers till great productions so good as others from the rest of the world. Rio de Janeiro is a city that really knows the graffiti culture.

Do people appreciate what you do?
Well, it’s almost impossible to make everybody happy, but usually people like and support our work. This is more usual in poor communities, where graffiti is really new to the local people that support us and give us the best (and we just need water and stairs). Children are usually who really enjoy our work and demonstrate that… being recognized like a “grafiteiro” by a kid while you’re walking in a street is one of the biggest awards an artist can receive.

How does living in Rio influence your work?
That’s a difficult question… I believe the biggest influence is the local weather, as a famous local song says “where the blue is even blue”, here everything is really colorful and this situation is really deep in our souls. Well, just living and painting outside Rio I only could say what is unique here.

Is there anything particular you guys want to have reached before you are old? (do a mural on the Chinese wall, take over the world, etc)
Travel around the world could be great, but I think the most relevant could be going around with our panting, because graffiti is a public sort of art and as we have the citizens as inspiration we must give them back something with our work.

What can we expect from you in the future?
We have a personal engagement to improve our work a little bit more everyday. Because the worst thing would be to reach the top state of our work… if you get there is because you just can’t improve your work and soon it decreases. There is too much work to be done yet as we don’t live only with by our painting. Nowadays we’re looking to make our themes more consistent, we choose something and after that we really go deep into it.