Wark This Way!

As regular readers of Eat Rio will know, I have a small obsession with graffiti. I love spotting new pieces as they appear and getting to recognise the work of particular artists or crews. Soon after I arrived here, one character caught my attention and the more I travelled within the city, the more I saw his rather unseemly face.

Not a particularly friendly or happy character is he?


I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of this series of often sneering characters. But they were striking and something about them really  jumped out at me. In my head I dubbed them ‘Ballmen’ and the more I looked around, the more I realised that there were many different variations dotted around the streets of Rio.


A small selection of the ballmen I've spotted around Rio. Words that spring to mind: Sinister, grumpy, malevolent, unsettling, strange.


So there they are – a bunch of eye-catching figures. And for a long time, that is how they remained to me – an oddity and nothing more. But one of the nicest unexpected benefits of writing this blog has been that it has led me to do a little more research, dig a little deeper to find out more about the things I write about. Many of these ballmen are accompanied by the initials NMP and you’ll see that the first picture even includes a web address. In preparing to write today’s post I have uncovered a lot more information and it makes me view these angry little balls in a different light!

Bolinho Palhaço has evolved over the years


They are the creation of a guy called Marcos Rodrigo Neves, better known as Wark Rocinha. Wark was born and raised in Rocinha, Rio’s biggest favela, and invented the ‘Ball Man’ character back in 2000. The Ball man’s proper name is ‘Bolinho Palhaço’ (Clown Ball). Over the last decade, Wark’s achievements have gained him increasing recognition. His first solo exhibition was in 2005 and in the same year he setup a shop and studio in Rocinha with his wife. He started to develop new styles including representations of public figures (such as musicians and politicians) and also ‘Mulheres’, combining the female form with favela architecture.

One of Wark's "Mulheres" figures. The 'ideal' body shape here in Brazil is quite different to that back home in England. But on this matter I have pretty much gone native!


In 2009, Wark was invited by the Secretary of State for Culture to give graffiti lessons in the favela. In 2011 Wark and his wife, Ale Lima, opened the Instituto Wark Rocinha to continue this work and to use it as a tool of social awareness. He was also asked to decorate one of the many vacas in the recent Cow Parade.

Wark's cow in the Cow Parade.


So now when I see a Bolinho Palhaço, I will not think they look a bit evil. Instead they will make me think of all the positivity that Wark, his associates and his art are bringing to some of the neediest kids in Rio.

Lessons in the classroom...

...and lessons out on the street/playground.

If you want to find out more about Wark’s Institute (Instituto Wark Rocinha), check out their website: http://www.iwrocinha.com.br/site/home.php

5 replies
  1. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    Hey I was the first person to expose Alex as a creep! So much for giving credit where credit is due :-)
    That “Mulheres” figure is electrifying…(and exit stage left).


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *