Mar 18

Toz and The Seller of Happiness

During my first 6 months in Rio, my journey to work took me past the long wall that runs opposite Jardim Botânico. This wall is covered with some of Rio’s finest graffiti and because I passed it every day I was soon familiar with every piece on the wall.

As well as recognising the individual works, after a while I started to recognise the characters and styles of the different artists too. One of my favourites was a guy called Toz (real name Tomaz Viana) and the collective he was part of, the Fleshbeck Crew.


Toz calls these colourful characters “Shimu”. Their cheerful, mischievous faces pop up all over Rio.


Toz (sounds like ‘Toyzh’) has been in the news a lot recently – his enormous work in the port area of Rio deservedly gained a lot of attention.

But I wanted to tell you about another piece of Toz’s work. I was wandering through Gávea about 6 months ago when I saw this:


I had seen most of the characters in this picture before, but I was not familiar with the figure which had its head disappearing into a cloud of colourful balls.


The bold colours were really nice, but I wondered what had inspired this strange new character with its head hidden by a hundred brightly coloured balls? The clue was in the title.


O Vendedor de Alegria

As well as this work in Gávea, Toz had created other works that included this character. After some internet searching I discovered that this was all part of an exhibition titled O Vendedor da Alegria (Seller of Happiness).


A ‘Seller of Happiness’ on a street corner…



Hmmm, who sells happiness? Those of you with dirty minds will probably be thinking seedy thoughts right now! However, the answer can be found at the beach:


The Seller of Happiness approaches through the late afternoon sea mist



These guys wander the beaches with their selection of colourful balls.


And in case the cynics among you think that these guys don’t bring happiness to kids today (who are apparently only interested in video games and technology), here’s proof that some kids are still delighted by this vendor’s wares:


As I was watching this guy wander past, some teenagers called him over to buy a football. As soon as he put down the larger beach-balls, a little girl came running over, enchanted. She spent the next five minutes jumping all over this thing! You could see the vendor felt kind of bad when he had to eventually pick it up and go on his way.


Toz has a book coming out next week that will be showcasing and explaining his works – I for one will be hunting it down!

Traço e trajetória

I’ll be queueing up to get my copy!


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  1. Marcos

    This kind of graffiti is nice but I don’t like the one that makes places dirty and ugly, I mean, the pichações.

    1. tomlemes

      Hi Marcos, like you I also have a problem with a lot of what is called pixação / pichação. I heard one justification which is that it is a form of social protest from people who have very little in society. They want to make the place ugly for the people who are getting something from society, presumably as a way to force change. This seems like very twisted logic to me…

      1. Marcos

        I googled the words pixação and pichação and I learnt that the word pichação is the act of write something on the walls or buildings as a form of protest like you said when you replied my post. You’re right. pichação also means to speak bad of somebody. Pichação is the act of using bitumen to make roads. I found out that the word pixação is used in an informal writing. I’m a Brazilian but I don’t like the Portuguese language because of these spelling rules and I’m not good at that. So, it’s really boring to learn when to use r or rr, x or ch, j or g and so on.

        1. tomlemes

          Ha ha! Yes, Portuguese can be tricky! But I feel sorry for people learning English too – there is very little logic in the way that words are spelt in English – weird, beard, cheered – all these words sounds the same, but have different spellings! 😀

  2. The Gritty Poet

    These guys always bring the following lyrics to mind when I see them walking by.

    “You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
    When they all come down and did tricks for you
    You never understood that it ain’t no good
    You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you”

    A good ol’ Bob Dylan tune, which was even covered by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Seja Seja Rei (B.B King). Now that is something.

    1. tomlemes

      “Seja Seja Rei”! rs/lol! Nice rendition too.

  3. The Gritty Poet

    Humm, the bilingual LOL – interesting. How about “SLOL” for concision?
    And to convey bittersweet laughter “SGrrr”.

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