Marvila is an out of the way neighbourhood to the east of Lisbon. It’s off the beaten track. But yet, for lovers of street art, it hosts one of the greatest collections of murals in the city.
Perched on top of a hillock the district overlooks the coast about 15 minutes walk away. It is intersected by a couple of railway lines and the ground is dusty and dry. Visiting when I did, in the September heat, there wasn’t much shade cover when walking around. Nor are there many places to take a break. The area is dominated by it’s high rise apartment blocks. Such a familiar sight in the suburban districts of Lisbon and the areas around.
The murals are the result of the MURO Urban Art Festival which took place in 2017. It was one of a number of events as part of Lisbon being the Ibero-American Capital of Culture for that year. As a result you may detect a fair amount of Latin American feel to the work. Portugal and the Iberian peninsula have of course got strong links to Brazil and the rest of South America. Each artist was given the brief of ‘past and present’ to re-interpret those links in their own way.
Stand outs include works from Kobra and Gleo. World renowned for his colourful portraits, Kobra’s image of Brazilian indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire rightly tends to get a lot of attention. He wanted to emphasize the importance of native peoples as representative of a common heritage across all of Latin America. Gleo’s piece meanwhile represents a more personal story. Based on her cousin Ana the image remembers a childhood story. This when recalled makes her think about the things that really matter, love and soul.
Overlooking one another the murals can be seen from all over. Turn one corner and you’ll come across another giant piece of work. If there’s a benefit from the art it’s that the area is certainly more interesting to look at. It helps that the art is high quality. It probably won’t in itself be the panacea for Marvila’s future socio-economic growth but environment matters. That’s certainly been the thought process for other city sponsored giant mural projects. The Padre Cruz district in Lisbon and the Torre district in Cascais being two other examples.
The murals of Marvila are worth the effort to get to. A residential neighbourhood perched on a Lisbon hill with parched earth all around and not much shelter. You’ll need to bring sunscreen, good walking shoes, a hat and some water. It’s not something you’ll regret though, this is a great place to see street art.
The MURO Urban Art festival took place in the neighbourhood of Marvila between 25-28 May 2017. The murals were visited on 11 September 2019 and all photos were taken on the same day. For more information on the artists and the inspirations behind the works have a look here.