Lab Artists

We provide an expressive and collaborative space for our Lab Artists to creatively engage with WPI’s student and faculty body.

Episode #01

Panmela Castro on Art & Activism

Join the Global Lab conversation with Panmela Castro on what it means to be an activist of color using art as a medium of expression and her body as a canvas. In this episode, she talks about issues of gender, race, and domestic violence and how that is represented in her performances and life as an activist in Brazil. In this episode, Panmela moves us to look beyond hatred to find love, strength, and acceptance.

Hosted by Aarti Smith Madan,  Spanish & International Studies, Department of Humanities and Arts, WPI

Art & Activism

by Panmela Castro & Aarti Smith Madan | Artists In Residence

Guest Bio

Panmela Castro is a graffiti artist from the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She has developed projects in more than 15 countries and has received numerous nominations for her human rights activism. She has also exhibited in institutions such as Stedelijk Museum and her work is part of The United Nations Art Collection. Panmela’s work involves creating performative art that is based on her personal experience as an activist searching and providing mutual affection and recognition to women with similar experiences.


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Fri, 9/9 10:40AM • 20:16


people, mural, performances, woman, art, brazil, bit, wpi, students, feminist, participate, hair, stencils, global, hotel, important, present, world, suffer, masculine


Outro, Interviewer, Intro, Panmela Castro


Intro  00:03

empathize, engage, inquire, participate, collaborate, amplify Welcome to Story world, where we feature creative scholarship and global engagement by students, faculty, guests and friends at the Global lab at WPI. Storyworld. Explore with us.


Interviewer  00:28

All right, we’re here today with Pamela Castro, who’s in town for arts and sciences week 2019, and the launch of the Latin American Studies Initiative. Thank you, Ben Mela, for joining us today. We’re going to start by talking about your your roots as a street artist in Brazil, and then more specifically about art across the world, and specifically then on university campuses. So welcome. The first question I have for you is, you mentioned in your writing that the only thing I’m sure of is being a feminist. What do you mean by that? Could you elaborate on that a bit for us?


Panmela Castro  01:10

I wrote this phrase, in the moment that we have a huge exhibition in Brazil, about feminist art. And I was talking with the Creator and she said that I was not going to participate. And I started thinking about who I was I am I even though I don’t know if he I can consider myself as a woman, like I have lots of masculine character is and without this talk about gender non binary. Too much question in this world. And the only thing that I really know that is that families, and I’m using the families who share the things in the world.


Interviewer  02:03

One of the most famous feminists of recent Brazilian history is my yearly Franco. And I know that a lot of stencils were made of her in the aftermath of her assassination. And one thing that really struck me was when Malala visited, and she also helped you make some stencils. Could you talk about that experience and what it meant for you to have these global feminists sort of together in the space of Brazil and what that meant for you as an artist and as a feminist and activist?


Panmela Castro  02:40

Yeah, when Malala made the 21 year old, she shows my organization to commemorate her birthday. And she came to talk to with some goals and we make these were free workshop where she made these things off Mariela Franco, but it’s important to know that in that time, we have different kinds of stencils with different Roman and she shows Maria


Interviewer  03:07

tell us a bit about Nayeli her background and what she means to you as a Brazilian


Panmela Castro  03:17

the most important thing in Mariela that was important when she was alive, and it’s important now that she was she’s she was killed is that Marya Lee was her presenting in power space. UK kind of people that were not represented there. That’s like black women from the favelas. Lesbian. We don’t do not have to Marti presentation in the power of spacing, the politicals and melody I was giving voice to this kind of people here presenting yours there. And because of this, because she was shaking too much the politis people killed her. And now she caught a symbol that about our our fight for our rights.


Interviewer  04:23

So I’m happy you brought the matter of race into this conversation based on following you and reading a lot of your works. I know recently, you’ve begun to self identify with your your black ancestry. So can you talk a bit about the link between gender and race in Brazil? And does this link between gender and race come to play out in your art?


Panmela Castro  04:54

In Brazil? For me it’s difficult because I get in nowhere because I was raised as why to go, but some stuffs happens with me. And I never know why, like yesterday, going to my hotel, here in one system was the worst news there are so difficult to speak in the name of the city. I agree. Going to my hotel by Uber, the Uber asked me if I was walking inside the old hotel, because it was a good walk, to do to work in that big hotel. And I was like, why he thinks that I’m working there, I’m not like it, I guess of the hotels. And this kind of stuff that happens with me, it’s because I’m not white. And it’s took a long to me to discover it. At the same times. If I want, I can say that I’m blacking resue. But at the same time, I’m concerned that I did not suffer the same kind of pressures that woman with dark skin. So far in Brazil, like to go to a supermarket it and the the main look as you are going to stall something and this kind of thing that don’t suffer. And it’s different levels of pressures. But with my experience to have in my family, the pressures because they don’t want me to know that I was black. They raised me to be our white go, like he’s straightening my hair, coloring my hair in blonde. Because in this way i look like more white. I think it’s good to share the kinds of projects that we have in Brazil. And you know, in Brazil, I have this organization, college hinami That it’s a women’s rights organization where we have the we use the arts to promote the women’s rights special against domestic violence. And we are we during years we were doing this job. And I saw that it was not just sufficient to make work with a woman, because we were talking a lot about domestic violence men. But when we saw the numbers 70% of the woman that was suffering domestic violence and be kidded will black woman. This is why I directed all my forte for black woman because you are the woman that are suffering more and needs more help.


Interviewer  07:48

disease issues come up in your artwork.


Panmela Castro  07:53

We cannot sit emerging in the band and the performances. But in my social in the pendulum is competent directed for black woman.


Interviewer  08:09

I’d like to talk now a little bit about your performances and specifically about how they relate to your body. So your work really focuses on the personal as a pathway to the political and your body is a canvas in many ways. Can you tell us a bit about those dynamics, those processes of using your body as a canvas


Panmela Castro  08:34

lots of people say that my work speaks about woman general words. I like to say that I don’t want to represent the woman because I cannot represent all the woman out kind of the woman because they are different. I prefer to speak about to me, and the weight if some more or the person feel I met with my history. In this case, I can hit present a beat together with her. I think my work is about this to be together. And it’s about love too because we are looking for love and sometimes people gave you it’s violence but it’s always about love to look for love.


Interviewer  09:26

And it’s really beautiful. It’s a beautiful way of thinking about it. So I know I have my favorite performances of yours. What are some of your favorite performances that you have done?


Panmela Castro  09:41

I think the the work that we developed is like a song is not we don’t have one or other that’s my preferred one. My favorite one. I like out there and we’ll for sure we are always excited with the last one that So now remember, my last one was a coat against Batman that I put our life back.


Interviewer  10:12

Can you tell us a bit about it? Yes. You did it.


Panmela Castro  10:16

Yeah, I did it like two weeks ago, three weeks ago. And I invited to like a woman, and no matter, man, like, they gaze. And they came for this code where we talk about men God, they made me feel this. And we put fire in a piece of paper in a silo to get this man out of our life. And in the beginning, I thought that it as a performance it will be a little bit more likely to throw or funny maybe funny, but in the end, I saw that people really believe it in that cycle of the defile. A like to a woman was crying when they are they were telling the history. And this is why this performance got me is so surprising. Because it was touching the people.


Interviewer  11:23

One of your performances is called hoorah rupture where you shave your head and transition from wearing dresses to the end I think you’re wearing a suit. Could you tell us a bit about that performance and what it means for you


Panmela Castro  11:40

the performer see you go to the talks a little bit about what we were saying about race that was grow it I grew up as a white go and my friend’s family they straighted and painted my hair with bones and I was years and years with that hair and it was a kind of slavery to every month paint the hair straight the hair. It was so boring. I hate so much that’s fact a to have to look feminine with that blonde hair like and to us all the dress sometimes I feel that I’m so masculine I have so much 30 characters that are considered masculine and hope tutoring Portuguese it’s like to break the performance was to break with out that my family out that people teach me how how I as how I I have to be a woman How is to be a woman and this is why I invited people to shave my hair in this way I can get my my new hair and they throw higher as a black you and I changed the my clothes and booty comfortable clothes that I like it. That’s it it was more to say that I was not accepting more quiet people tell me to do


Interviewer  13:26

two of your more recent performances involve your body being mutilated, one with the cuts and the other where you’re being stoned. Can you tell us about those experiences and what those works mean for you?


Panmela Castro  13:42

Yeah. The first time I present performance like that where I get body ma it’s it was in in a museum inside hubs hospital for crazy people. And I sorry I don’t know the word for this. It was a one of the intern she was saying why I was cutting my body if she was inside of the hospital to doing this well it’s it’s exciting. They are there to weekend make me tougher race and make hardcore actions to tell about life and being and changing and to make it like this hard to code. A good thing my buddies to talk about these search for love that instead of this we get like the pen because and it’s not just about what people do we feel is words is about what they say to us and how they look to us. As a woman and how we suffer everyday, as a woman, it’s more about it’s a metaphor about how to be a woman in this world.


Interviewer  15:12

So moving on from your performances, I want to think about the question of space. What are some of your favorite spaces to do these performances in or to paint murals, and whether they’re cities or specific locations?


Panmela Castro  15:31

Oh, my work is for people in the way I prefer to stay in place that I can put, I can be in touch with people, I can exchange, we can make things together. The people, the audience can participate on the I have lots of participating. But participating Oh, trouble, rebellious participative is participating workers. This is the most important point for me. This is why I like to make mural and this is why I make mural here. Because the mural is a way to be dialing with people to tele history to take interaction with them.


Interviewer  16:18

So while you’ve been at WPI, you’ve painted a mural of Abby Kelly Foster, who’s Westers most famous, anti abolitionist and suffragist in support of women’s rights to vote. What can you say about the role of murals and art on university campuses such as at WPI.


Panmela Castro  16:44

I’m so glad that we got the permission to make it in the universe, it’s so important to share art with the people here in the campus and everywhere, sometimes the buildings, the act, the tour is so cold, and we live in this urban place that people don’t know accents between. And they think to have this kind of art, with the memory of a so important woman that work. It’s so much for us. It’s a way to get a better life and improve what we are thinking about the world.


Interviewer  17:24

What was it like to produce Arts at WPI?


Panmela Castro  17:29

Yeah, for me, it was super special to be here this weekend because people receive it me so well, I made so much friends. It was so cool to stay here painting this mural. I want to come back other times and have more experience like this in other universities.


Interviewer  17:52

Did you interact with students? Did you interact with WPI students during your time here?


Panmela Castro  17:59

Me What sorry? I didn’t mean to.


Interviewer  18:01

Did you have conversations with students?


Panmela Castro  18:04

Yes, I met a lot of students, we share a lot, the perspective about the arts. And I learned a little bit about how they stood here and the engineer thing. It was school.


Interviewer  18:21

So we are an engineering school right at the end of the day, even though we have a robust program and humanities and arts and we also have I am GED and a global division. Students come here to study engineering. So what my professors and others on this campus say to students who perhaps don’t like the mural, or who don’t understand the mural


Panmela Castro  18:50

I don’t have too much experience where people didn’t like the mural journal, they like it. It’s like a present for the universities for people. But it’s okay, if you don’t like look, in life. You have so much marketing campaigns in the street boutique that you have to deal day by day, like in the TV, in the radio in the internet, you can just see the mirror and live it to people who like us to like it.


Interviewer  19:27

Great. That’s all my question is for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us and to talk with us this morning. It’s been an absolute pleasure to get to know you more, and we hope you come back someday.


Panmela Castro  19:42

Well, thank you. It’s was very nice to make this with you.


Outro  19:59

Thank you for listening to Storyworld Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook at WPI global lab and our website global Stay tuned for more from the global lab

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