Madonna, the popstar, created the NGO Raising Malawi (http://www.raisingmalawi.org/health) in 2006, and it has already helped over 5,600 children by building schools, daycare centers, healthcare clinics, and disease prevention programs. The organization decided to create the Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care (MJIPSIC) hospital in the city of Blantyre in 2017.
Wanderson Petrova, from the state of Ceará, participated at the inauguration ceremony. He is a Fan of Madonna, and she discovered him through social media and requested him to go to Malawi to paint his graffiti art on the murals of this hospital.
He tells ATLANTICO how the experience was important to his personal and professional preparation and experience. He tells how he learned more about the ways his art can bring about social changes to his community from the trip too. Petrova also emphasizes the change in his relationship with Malawi and his plans for returning to the country.
ATLANTICO – How did the invitation to Malawi take place?
Wanderson Petrova – My relationship with Madonna became closer as she discovered the graffiti artwork I painted in my hometown [Crato] as he was inspired by the poetic inspiration from one of her videos, named “Ghost Town.” She shared my graffiti art in all of her social networks. One year after the first post, the second one was posted. She ended up liking another one of my works of art, and she followed me on Instagram and wrote, “Truly, love conquers all.” That is how our relationship got closer. Then, the Raising Malawi entity ended up inviting me to paint murals inside of the Mercy James Hospital. Madonna herself chose one of my works of art from my portfolio, where I used landscapes, and I mixed the surreal with more figurative elements. She ended up choosing a blue forest with some birds.
ATLANTICO – How was your relationship with Madonna during the process when you were working on the mural?
WP – Madonna herself was leading everything; she was very active in that respect. She followed up the entire process of building the murals, even including the color pigmentation. She played the role as a type of curator. Several times, photographs were sent to her on the progress of the mural, and she would say: “I liked that tone of blue. I want you to continue with that”. She wanted the paint reproduced, as it was previously, even at the same proportions.
ATLANTICO – What was your experience like in Malawi?
WP – The experience was marvelous. It is interesting how, in this post-modern world, people harness the internet for integrating their initiatives. To make things possible and narrow their ties. Therefore, it was very challenging for me. Can you imagine this; one spends their entire life as a fan, buying art from their favorite performer; and suddenly, that performer needs and request your art too. I also questioned myself about art, a painting, something so subjective, how it can visually attract children with such vulnerable social dimensions. After that, I improved my understanding of the power of my work within a social segment. It was after that experience in Malawi that made me understood that I also could help people within my community. Nowadays, I am active in entities for kids to contribute to social-education initiatives. I impute that in my art while I seek to repair and perform auto-reflection. That was only possible after going through that experience in Malawi.
ATLANTICO – During those 20 days you spent there, did you meet other artists or performers who participated in the project: Were there other Brazilians?
WP – I met John who has worked with art there for some time now. He was doing very interesting social work with teen orphans from Jacaranda School. There were no other Brazilians at the time I was there. However, I found out that Madonna had invited Eduardo Kobra too. Then, there were two Brazilians painting artwork at the hospital: Eduardo Kobra and me.
ATLANTICO – How did your relationship to the African continent change after that experience? What is your vision for Africa on a personal and professional level nowadays?
WP – I am not able to disassociate that on a personal and professional level now. It is so mixed and so present in me after that experience. One of the things I absorbed from it is that relationship to perseverance. Problems do not matter, neither the vulnerability of Africa, because when they come smiling, they will overcome and find a way to overcome. I do not know, but it comes from inner strength. A relationship between strength and perseverance. That impacted me, you know. The hospital was still being built. Women and men were working on that. Caring for their sick afterwards. That was so inspiring.
ATLANTICO – Are you planning to return there?
WP – Certainly. I am preparing for that.
ATLANTICO – What are your plans for the future?
WP – I wish to continue painting some spaces jointly with children and provide acceptance to people. Visual acceptance, a way to escape, and that is the same relationship that I collaborated with Madonna. I wish she can expand, and there too. That is what I can say about my plans for the future.
+ Malawi is a country located between Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique in Central Sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the most densely populated countries on the continent. It is home to over 16 million people whose main source of income is agriculture.