It’s just a wall, right? You can walk around a million of them a day and not notice a single one. Well, that obviously depends what country you find yourself in. Brazil, America, Mexico or South Africa? While Mexico and America discuss the significance of their wall, let’s discuss African and Brazilian walls. Both countries are strikingly similar, like two peas in an inter-continental pod. Lush scenery blankets the land, the people are varied and beautiful, the politicians are dodgy, the dogs are friendly and art pumps through the veins of all who live in these countries.
It’s the form of expression that changes. Very few walls are beautiful in South Africa. Most have cracks and some wear scars from generations of being battered by the sun and wind. In Brazil however, every blank space is an opportunity for artistic reflection. No matter how cracked, dirty, or hidden the wall is, each tells a story. You are never alone when you walk down a Brazilian street. You may be kept company by a gorilla in a flat cap, a dog wearing glasses, or a little girl letting go of her birthday balloon. Brazil is an alive country. It’s a feeling country, for better or for worse, emotions run over every brick in the land and drip off of every street sign. If our walls could talk in South Africa, I wonder what they would say.
A stranger caught me one day, staring at a mural. It was remarkably realistic, and planted right at the edge of Ipanema beach in Rio De Janeiro. On the mural was a set of Brazilian footballers, looking dejected, heads facing down, crouched down with their elbows on their knees. In between them was a triumphant German footballer, Thomas Mueller, with his hands outstretched in victorious jubilation. It was a reference to the 7-1 thumping the Brazilians received in the 2014 World Cup.
I was drawn in closer to the wall, it was like a tragic scene in a movie that I could not turn away from. The pain felt strangely addictive. An old man selling lollies walked past and studied me studying the wall.
“Ah yes… That day… The day of the German disaster. That was a very dark day. That was the day that broke Brazil.”
If we had to paint our heartache on South African walls, what would they look like? Which would we choose as the day that made South Africa, and which was the day that broke it?