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Brazilian muralist’s work shares his story and his faith

Eduardo Kobra i jego mural Ręka Boga

kobrastreetart | Instagram

Magdalena Galek - published on 10/27/23

Kobra is a 47-year-old artist from Brazil who uses his art to boldly share his faith and popularize world peace and equality between people.

“Kobra” has painted about 3,000 murals on walls all over the world. You may not know his nickname, but almost everyone has seen some of his murals on social media: David (the one by Michelangelo), Christ the Redeemer (of Rio de Janeiro), Anne Frank, or Mother Teresa with Mahatma Gandhi. His work is a distinctive combination of photorealistic figures with a geometric explosion of colors.

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A post shared by Eduardo Kobra (@kobrastreetart)

That’s what he does today. But as a child, did anyone — including him — expect he would be making such beautiful works?

Life on the streets

His childhood on the outskirts of São Paolo, Brazil, was full of poverty, violence and discrimination. He overcame them starting when he was young by immersing himself in street art.

“I came from a simple place, with all the opportunities that were open to me in terms of crime, violence, drugs, and many other things,” Eduardo says in an interview. “But on the street I was always interested in art.” His first graffiti in the city was illegal. Today, however, he paints on the same walls — including church buildings — with the owners’ permission.

Today he’s one of the world’s most famous muralists, committed to spreading peace, supporting the poor or evangelizing. But not that long ago, Carlos Eduardo Fernandes Léo (now known as Kobra) was in a very difficult situation. He had a long history of illness, heavy metal poisoning, several stays in prison, and problems with alcohol.

Painting was always in his heart

Carlos didn’t go to art school. He simply loved painting and learned to do it on his own.

“This process of getting to where I am now was not easy. Everything was against me. There was no indication that I would be able to follow this path,” he recalls.

“Many of my friends who had talent took an easier path” of crime, he says. “They were successful at first, but ended up in prison or even dying,” he adds.

Despite the difficulties, Kobra carried painting in his heart and devoted himself to it with passion. This helped him experience the bright side of life when things were really hard for him. Despite the difficulties, he followed what he loved. On September 12, 2023, he wrote the following on Instagram about this stage of his life: “Do not despise humble beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the beginning of the work.”

The great miracle of his daughter’s short life

He straightened out his life, started painting regularly, and started a family. Then, tragedy struck: his daughter died. On Instagram on March 14, 2020, he publicly shared his grief and, unpopularly on the world street art scene, his incredibly strong faith:

This is a post about sadness and great faith in God. Our daughter Catarina has passed away. But for the 7 months that she lived in the womb of Andressa (Carlos’ wife – editor’s note), we were able to believe in healing every day — and believe in the possibility of a miracle. I’m sure we experienced a miracle, because she had a very rare case of malformation, but even so, she was still alive and interacting (after birth – ed.) for 10 hours. I’m sure we experienced a miracle, for Andressa’s health, despite the risks to her life that she faced and all the difficulties of childbirth. I’m sure that we’re living a miracle due to the prayers we receive from so many people, and all the strength we feel because of them. Catarina, we will miss you forever. But your life, though short, is a great miracle.

Illness and the strong pull of God’s hand

Shortly after losing his child, Kobra became seriously ill with COVID. During this time he experienced the unique presence of God. The artist decided to paint a mural about it after his recovery. Today, the artwork occupies the wall of a 108-ft-tall building in São Paulo. It tells not only this city but also the whole world, through social media, that God can pull everyone out of their dark valley.

He describes the work, called Hand of God, as follows:

This is the most autobiographical of my works. The mural was inspired by a very difficult moment for me, which started to be overcome only when I felt the hand of God. I have just summarized this episode in this work, 33 meters (108 feet) high and 7 meters (23 feet) wide, in a building in Minhocão, an expressway in São Paulo, Brazil. Despite portraying a particular situation of mine, I believe it is a universal theme: I want a strong tug to rescue all people, of any faith, who are experiencing difficulties such as depression, loneliness, financial problems, alcoholism, and drug addiction.”

Returning to the places he came from

The difficult situations that the 47-year-old artist from Brazil went through seem to be guiding his creative work today. He paints about world peace, about gratitude, equality, and helping the poor. He paints about the common path of faith and science, and about hope.

He knows what it’s like to be hungry, so this year for Easter he painted a beautiful work about sharing food, about hope for those most in need, on the wall surrounding the parish of São Paulo da Cruz.

“More than half of Brazilians have food problems and don’t eat often enough. This is very serious and very painful. My new mural on the wall of Calvary Church, in Pinheiros, São Paulo, shows the importance of feeding the hungry. Let’s show love to others who need it most. How about thinking of a concrete gesture?” Such a concrete gesture for Kobra was to organize a lunch for 120 poor and homeless people. He prepared the lunch together with the Passionist Fathers, and the local bishop also sat down to eat with everyone.

The dishes were cooked for the guests under the guidance of celebrity chef and Brazilian Master Chef juror Henrique Fogaça. To continue the works of mercy, Cobra has founded an organization called the Kobra Institute.

Evangelizer

To observers of his activities and artwork, he’s also a preacher of the Good News, although the artist himself may not think of himself as such. On his instagram profile you can find messages such as these:

“God wants to resurrect your dreams”.

“Jesus is extraordinary”

“If God is with us
Who will stop us?
If God is with us
There is nothing to fear!”

“My hope is in God. And yours?”

“Hold on to God’s hand and go!”

Looking at this profile that emerges from his words, works, and actions, we can’t help but think that it’s like a biblical story about a seed that must die so that a strong and beautiful life can grow from it. It’s a life that gives life, gives hope, and gives light. Thanks to this, the Kingdom of God appears in the midst of people who are perhaps walking in darkness.

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ArtBrazilInspiring stories
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