“I have always wanted the integration of what drives me in my current reality but also incorporating outside occurrences - avoiding having only my life experiences as my sole reference.” - Alexandre Keto
The Inspirations To A Master Creator
Starting as childhood passions, Alexandre Keto began drawing and painting as early as six years old. Growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Keto’s masterpieces are heavily influenced by Samba, his spiritual Orisha worship, and by American graffiti. Samba, a Brazilian musical genre and dance, gained its roots from Africa via the West African slave trade and through religious practices of African people. Being raised as a child to take pride in the culture of Samba, Alexandre Keto connected to old school Samba the most, where the lyrics emphasized the fight of the Black movement and of Africans in a poetic manner. To pay homage to his Orisha worship, Keto honors the Orishas by painting his versions of the gods and goddesses and by preserving ancestral Yoruba traditions by finely binding them into his art pieces. It was through hip hop that Keto was embraced and started doing graffiti. Graffiti, an urban language that uses the help of the hip-hop movement to fight and look for solutions for social problems aided Keto in his search to bridge the gap between his world and how it related to the Black diaspora.
“The hip hop culture came in my youth and it was more contemporary and cool than samba at that moment, it was easier to connect and use it to spread out my message.” Keto says. “Then I realized that just painting my name (traditional graffiti), wasn’t the best way to express and spread my message. I used my culture and my childhood passions as my inspirational sources to add into my murals. It did not take much time until I felt the need to draw inspiring artistic depictions that would represent what I found beautiful. I found beauty in my love for the Orishas, Black people, and Samba. I didn’t have references of this represented artistically and so I decided to do it more incisively.”
Operating With A Purpose
By creating this positive representation, it allowed Keto to become closer to his mission which was to celebrate, reconnect, and value the African heritage. Through his work, he started understanding more about the history, feelings, problems and wishes of individuals not only in his very own community but all over the world. “Once I saw the impact of this work, I realized that this was the result of a passion that was adapted to my reality. I also discovered that I was able to arouse feelings, and more than just adapt but transform the reality of the people that were in contact with my art.” Keto states. Understanding his full purpose was life altering for Alexandre. This knowledge resulted in his having an ambition far superior than just being recognized and pleasing art critics – he discovered the desire of changing the lives of the people he encountered, interactively doing his small part to manifest a better society. In the last ten years, Alexandre Keto has completed more than 1,000 murals and paintings in over 21 countries - collaborating on social projects with notable organizations such as United Nations, The United States Consulate, The Brazilian Embassy, and Doctors Without Borders. Keto has also partnered with several grassroots organizations, helping to spread his message of community in overlooked neighborhoods and sections of the world.
“I believe that art is a tool that enables this direct intervention, opening new horizons – but in a real and accessible way, so it really reaches people.That is why today I do art having in mind social issues, so it can be one more tool for building knowledge.”