Professionally speaking, coronavirus confinement is not exactly good for street artists. But famed Brazilian muralist Kobra says he found inspiration staying at home — and is using it to help those hit by the pandemic.
Eduardo Kobra — the 44-year-old artist's full name — is known around the world for his brightly colored, kaleidoscopic murals.
Among other things, he has set the Guinness World Record, twice, for largest spray-paint mural: first with an acclaimed piece painted by him and his team for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, then with an even bigger work in his native Sao Paulo the following year.
But what does a street artist from the urban jungle, used to traveling the world and working outdoors at massive scale, do when he is confined to his residence in a sleepy provincial town?
"My work is in the streets. I'm a painter who depends on the street. I paint murals. So this has all been a big change for me. I've had to think about how to transform my work… rethink my creative process," Kobra told AFP in an interview in Itu, the small southeastern city where he is riding out the pandemic.
He was "paralyzed" at first, he said.
But he emerged from his rethink with a plan: a mural to bring people hope during the crisis, and raise money for those suffering from it along the way.
From his confinement, Kobra painted a mini-mural called "Coexistence" on canvas.
True to his traditional style, it depicts five children from five continents praying behind face masks printed with the symbols of five of the world's major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism.
Though small by Kobra's standards, it is still pretty big — easily taller than he is. But he dreams of painting a full-scale version somewhere in the world when the pandemic is under control.
Help for the homeless
For now, though, Kobra is working on part two of his plan: raffle off numbered prints of the painting to "bidders" who donate badly needed food and supplies for the poor in Sao Paulo, where stay-at-home measures have left many struggling to eat.
"If we're scared staying in our homes, just imagine what it's like for people who are living on the street," he said, clad head to toe in black that contrasted with the vibrant colors of his painting.
"It doesn't do any good to confine ourselves in our houses without giving any thought to our fellow human beings."
Kobra is running the fund-raising drive with the help of two charities, I Know My Rights (IKMR) and the Nissi Arts Company.
One kit of food and supplies costs about $4. Anyone who donates 1,000 or more kits will automatically get one of the prints.
The raffle is set to be held Friday.
The groups say they have already collected money for 11,000 kits.
With an easy smile that belies his palpable concern over the outbreak, the slender, self-taught artist says he hopes to rise above the noise and pessimism generated by the pandemic.
"These are the people who keep Brazil going," he said.
"It's time for the country to look at them and help."