Italian street artist fights racism by turning swastikas into cupcakes

VERONA, Italy, November 24 (Reuters) – Swastikas on the wall turn into giant cupcakes with purple icing, and the words “my Hitler” turn into “my muffins”. All in one day’s work for the Italian street artist who fights racism by turning ugly graffiti into food.

“I take care of my city by replacing symbols of hatred with delicious things to eat,” says the 39-year-old artist, whose real name is Pier Paolo Spinazze, and whose professional name, Cibo, is the Italian word for food.

On a recently sunny morning, he had been warned by one of his 363,000 Instagram followers that there were swastikas and racist slanders in a small tunnel on the outskirts of Verona.

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He turned up, wearing his distinctive straw hat and necklace with stuffed sausages. He took out his bag of spray paint and got going while cars drove past and beeped.

Italian street artist Pier Paolo Spinazze, 39, known as ‘Cibo’ (Italian for food), covering racist graffiti with murals of food, poses for a portrait near Verona, Italy, November 18, 2021. REUTERS / Chiara Negrello

He covered the remarks with a light slice of margherita pizza and a caprese salad – mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. A swastika was turned into a huge red tomato. As he created the murals in the tunnel, which each took about 15 minutes, people drove by and looked out of their windows to stare and wave. An art teacher closed his window down to compliment his work.

In recent years, human rights groups have warned of growing racism in Italy following mass immigration from Africa. Fascist culture and war dictator Benito Mussolini still has a hard core of admirers.

Since he has become a local celebrity in Verona, he has also made enemies: “Cibo slept with the lights on!” someone spray-painted on a wall. He turned the threat into the ingredients of a gnocchi recipe.

“Dealing with extremists is never good because they are violent people, they are used to violence, but they are also cowards and very stupid,” Spinazze said.

“The important thing is to rediscover values ‚Äč‚Äčthat we may have forgotten, especially anti-fascism and the fight against totalitarian regimes dating back to World War II,” he said. “We need to remind ourselves of these values.”

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Written by Giulia Segreti Edited by Gavin Jones and Peter Graff

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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