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UK: Guitar legends turn to graffiti to help Brazilian kids

By James Pheby
30 Apr 2009 12:32 AM

LONDON, April 29 AFP - Guitar legends Jimmy Page and Brian May are joining forces with leading street artists to lend support to Brazil's poorest children.

Twelve of Brazil and Britain's most revered graffiti artists have donated custom-painted Gibson guitars to Page's charity, Action for Brazil's Children (ABC), which will be auctioned off in London late Wednesday.

"It's a very important project for me," contributing artist Speto told AFP from his Sao Paulo home. "From a very young age, poor people learn you can have anything using violence, we need to pay attention to this and do something about it."

"The kids need not only money but people to believe in them, that's the most important thing," Brazil's leading street artist added.

As for Queen axe-man May, he will be offering his first ever private guitar lesson to the highest bidder, with the proceeds channelled to community projects for Sao Paulo's mass of street children.

The city's most famous band internationally, CSS, will present a unique guitar designed by charismatic front-woman Lovefoxxx, to the A Forca Da Rua London exhibition.

Street art is a powerful tool in Sao Paulo, with artists drawing on graffiti's New York roots and modern art to brighten up and personalise the city's mammoth urban sprawl.

"The centre of Sao Paulo has some beautiful buildings but completely abandoned. This is a good reason for graffiti artists to beautify the area," the Brazilian said.

"Art is communication, it is shared emotion, shared ideas. It is to share with people," he added.

The rising profile of urban art has brought with it recognition as a legitimate art-form, but also a new wave of pretenders who seek its financial rewards.

"Everyone wants to do it, but graffiti is ephemeral. You shouldn't take it too seriously and should just enjoy the minute," Speto said.

British artist Inkie, long-time cohort of street-art superstar Banksy, and fellow contributor, also voiced concern at graffiti's recent rise in popularity.

"It's like any art form, you've got to do your training. They say a classical musician should do 10,000 hours before they are a professional musician and it's the same with graffiti," he told AFP.

"You've got to have pedigree and artistic talent and your work has to have the mistakes of the human soul.

Inkie grew up in Bristol, south-west England, where he joined Banksy and Massive Attack singer 3D spraying the city's walls and dodging police.

"The whole vandalism side of it is a problem but it's calligraphy, it's an artistic skill. It's like a cat or skunk putting their scent everywhere.

"If it's a white wall then it's fine to me, but I would never never mark a beautiful building of Georgian stone for example," he said.

Inkie, who said he was travelling to Sao Paulo in June, added: "Helping out the kids over there is the perfect thing for me."