Ni Hao is a writer from Campinas, an area in state of São Paulo, Brazil. Despite being active for a little over five years, she has developed an accomplished and highly personal visual language, faithful to the fundamentals of graffiti whilst not limiting herself to the streets: her illustrative and art work further demonstrate her effortlessly enjoyable oeuvre. After introducing her in our Imaginarium series last year, MTN-World wanted to find out more about the context and influences of this Brazilian aerosol artist.
- What are you trying to get across to the public? Do you think they might perceive your work differently depending on whether they are graffiti writers or not?
Maybe I’m not aiming to get anything across to the public, I mean I never draw and paint anything for other people, even though sometimes there’s message with a direct purpose. But, I like it when my drawings are well understood, when everyone can get it somehow or other.
I don’t paint complicated things, so i think it’s easy to reach people in general. And there is a little difference between writers and regular public, but nothing big. We have graffiti and street language, but in the end, we are all people, with points of view and particular feelings.
- Is there any class or gender awareness in your work?
No, my work is for everybody.
Sometimes i paint about feminism, war, drugs, sex, religion and feelings in general, love and hate. I like everything, and most of all, i like simplicity and childish things. I’m a mix, and my work can be about everything or just nothing. For example, sometimes when i paint my characters they could be a girl, a boy or an alien: who knows? It’s up to you. That’s the fun.
- “Ni Hao” is Hello in Chinese. Is there any influence of the Chinese / Oriental culture in your work or on your way of thinking?
Chinese yes! I’m not directly influenced but yes, there is some influence. When i was choosing my name, i was really into oriental stuff, learning and watching documentaries, and i was so excited! And im not talking about animes and cosplay, it was about the deep Chinese culture, the rural China.
Classic paintings, philosophies, the clothes, rice plantations, those beautiful, mysterious, wise eyes of old Chinese people, haha. I like oriental music too. I got totally inspired by all this, and brought it to my work naturally.
The funny thing is that I am Brazilian and I have nothing from China in my body except my admiration.
- Now you are part of the Cosmic Ghetto crew. Tell us about how you get in and what’s the objective of this team.
Yes, im in! Thank you boys btw haha.
I asked to join. I am a big fan of the Cosmic Ghetto style in general, they have good taste.
And thankfully, they liked my style too, and agreed to take me in the team.
The objetive of the crew, as far as I can see, is having fun: they are such fun guys, always sharing sketches and drawings. Some of them talk in my language which make me feel more comfortable, despite the distances. We want to travel and paint, but now we are waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine.
- We know you get inspiration from artists like Jamie Hewlett, Walt Disney and Maurice Sendak. But tell us about graffiti creators that inspire you.
I like a lot of graffiti artists.
When i started in 2014, those who got my attention were the classics: Sofles, Aryz, MadC, Dabs and Myla, Utah and Ether, 1UP Crew , Os Gêmeos and so on. I watched maybe all their videos and documentaries, searching for all the photos and information I could find on them. I took a deep dive and i really liked what I found!
But i was particularly amazed by MadC’s action and technique. Utah’s too. Very good at what they do, inspiring me a lot in many ways.
“the Brazilian crew VLOK were important for my understanding of the graffiti scene in my country in general.”
Now I have favorites like Sawe and Etam Crew. When I saw Etam’s work for the first time, I couldn’t believe the perfection, they are soooo good! Such a high level of technique, deep meaning and knowledge. I used to watch their videos every day after work, I even listened to the soundtracks. Sawe had the same impact! He also paints cartoons and has adapted them in his pieces, in a fun, quality and unique style.
Of course, I could not forget the Brazilian crew VLOK, who are excellent and were important for my understanding of the graffiti scene in my country in general.
- 303, Vents137, Lugosis. Do you think that a new graffiti branch specialized in cartoons is emerging? Do you feel part of it?
Yes, totally. I noticed a constant appearance of new cartoonists on the scene, like those mentioned. Very good ones. For me graffiti is no fun without drawings, they are essential. So, what I most want to see is new cartoonists in graffiti.
I do believe that I am part of this, I am part of this new generation and I am proud of my development.
- Tell us about the difficulties and advantages of painting in your city.
My city is very conservative and sexist. The general population is like that, very serious with old ideals. Even the young people behave like this. I live in the countryside and there are SO MANY SNITCHES. hahaha Plus violence!
“Despite being a hostile city, there are good days and I enjoy them.”
The police in Brazil are equally flawed, so when I go to paint I study the territory first. The risks are big when you are a woman, because rape and other crap, so every precaution is welcome. And i always take the opportunity to paint with company.
There are some advantages: in a small town, it’s easy to discover more places, go painting with your bicycle and discover good spots. In my city, we have so many abandoned factories – have no idea why – but we do. Plus freight trains! It is very good to paint in peace sometimes, to put ideas in the right place. I love it!
Despite being a hostile city, there are good days and I enjoy them.
- Is there a big difference between the work you do on legal and illegal walls?
Not much, my style follows me wherever i go.
On legal walls I have more time to think about scenarios, colors and elements, but the style still there. And when i paint in streets, i like to do a good job too! Most of times with pre designed characters. I like my characters, some are very good and funny! So, Im practicing getting faster more and more. With practice, I get better, I’m growing too.
- The image that the Western media projects of Brazil is usually a little negative. What is the best thing about living in the State of São Paulo?
The best thing about living in the State of São Paulo is the fact that we have this strong graffiti scene, old and new, and everything is happening fast, changing and I always have something to learn. Living in the countryside, makes me an outsider forever. hahaha
And thats nice!
So I can go to paint and meet friends, see some art galleries, and come back home. I like it like that.
- You are very focused on making illustrations on paper. What is the future of NIHAO?
I have no idea, but i hope good things, haha.
I love drawing in paper but I’ll never stop painting in streets, graffiti is my life. Is it too soon to say that? Well, that’s how i feel about it.
I have so many things to do, places to go. Also my mind is always changing, I’m not a simple person, my destiny in art is a crazy rollercoaster. And i go with the flow. I want to paint in galleries, i want to paint in suburbs, i want to sell and give.
I’m a beginner artist, scared and lost sometimes, but full of ideas and I like hard work. I’m ready to try.