Known for its crystal clear blue waters, magnificent rock formations, delicious cuisine and rich history, the “heel” of Italy, lower Salento has turned into a home of a very promising street art event. Nobody expected that a small town of Racale, along with a few neighboring places, will be the center of Apulian street art, but the transformation is inevitably happening right now. Salento, the place where cultures cross paths, is the birthplace of ViaVai Project, which emerged followed by awe, acclaim and even controversy.
ViaVai for the Years to Come
Viavai was born out of passion for art and the need to enrich the region with a contemporary artistic expression, founded by Matteo Bandiello, the initiator of the project, Niccolò Fortunato and Biagio Villa. Salento, the southern part of Apulia, is already a popular tourist destination, with Lecce being the largest city and the cultural heart of the district. The original idea behind the Viavai Project was to make an artistic action thinking outside the box, providing a different viewing and participating experience for the locals and visitors alike, while endowing the territory with series of vitalizing murals. The name of the event is highly symbolic, consisting of two common words, which when put together, imply a perpetual course, something that goes on and on, repeating itself. Several months after the project was launched, it peaks with summer mural additions by Alexis Diaz and Jaz, having already been adorned with numerous wall paintings by selected Italian and international street artists.
Artists in Salento
The ones who painted the first mural within the ViaVai project were Tellas , an artist from Cagliari, Sardinia, and an Urban Legend; and Eversiempre, an Argentine muralist. They both painted in the Racale community, healing the abandoned public constructions. Tellas made an amazing environmentalist piece, while Eversiempre presented his interpretation of the Republic, in a very large figure stretched and nude, wrapped in the Italian flag. This was a very new thing for the inhabitants of the small village, but since the murals corresponded so well with the environment, they were welcomed. At least until OZMO came into the picture.
OZMO’s piece ignited the first (and only, so far) controversy tied to the ViaVai project. The artist desired to give a completely contemporary take, and secular, by employing sacral iconography, as he frequently does. The problem appeared when he chose San Sebastian, the patron of Racale, as his subject and instead of dressing him traditionally in a loin-covering drape, he put a pair of D&G boxers on to the saint. It’s needless to say how upset the locals were and the “incident” even got into the national press. A lively dispute is ongoing, with some wanting to either censor, or even completely remove the mural off the wall. Still, the piece stirring up the spirits somehow introduced contemporary art to a small town, becoming more socially more significant than expected.
Latest Murals in Salento
Artists that came to Salento afterwards include Gola, CT, Pastel, Basik, and more recently, Ema Jons, Funkyhorrorvacui, Alexis Diaz, and JAZ. All of them gave their interpretations linked to the history of the region, Italy fused with their own ideas and artistic heritage, realizing several great collaborative works as well.
Street Art Festivals across the world have become key meeting and collaboration points of many artists. While we hope ViaVai Project will continue its life, we must mention Sea Walls, Pow! Wow! Street Art Festival in Hawaii and Taiwan, Public Festival in Australia, RISE in New Zealand, St. Art Delhi, Ono’u Street Art Festival & Battle in Tahiti, as some of the best examples of what seems to be the global practice in street art world recently.