On Saturday, January 21st, I took a trip to Jersey City to see the 180-foot high mural of David Bowie on the Cast Iron Lofts, at 837 Jersey Avenue. I had hoped to go to see world-renowned artist Eduardo Kobra’s mural while it was still a work-in-progress. Then I’d hoped to make it to November’s unveiling ceremony but, as I often say, life got in the way.
Soon after leaving the New Jersey Turnpike, I caught my first glimpse of him in all his Technicolor fabulousness. I started snapping photos immediately, even though other buildings were in the way. However, after parking and walking about two blocks, I had a fairly-unobstructed view. The mural is gloriously beautiful in person. Truly. In spite of the bright colors and bold lines, the mural has shading and depth; it’s like looking at a young David Bowie through a kaleidoscope.
Obviously, I went to Jersey City to see David Bowie, but the experience made me want to learn more about Kobra, a Sao Paolo-based street artist who uses a combination of painting, airbrush, and spray paint, has been working on an international series of portrait murals of famous figures such as Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Dylan who embody the qualities of respect for cultural differences, peace, and love for others.
Kobra is an activist who makes social statements simply through his subject matter and the values they embody. For example, in Rome he painted Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who is fighting for education for women in the Middle East. For “Olympic Boulevard” in Rio, he created a record-breaking mural which featured faces from five continents, challenging traditional notions of beauty. Much the same way that Kobra practices his brand of social activism, David Bowie affected change in gender equality, LGBT rights, and racial equality just by the way he lived (and, sometimes, in his lyrics).
Most of us could take a few pointers from Kobra and Bowie when it comes to activism—especially when it comes to rights for those with mental illness. It’s simple, really: live the way you want to affect change and be an example. If you want people with mental illness to be accepted and treated with the same courtesies as everyone else, don’t closet them. By treating them differently, you are telling others that it is okay to treat them differently. If you happen to be a person with a mental illness, “outing” yourself might be difficult to do; you might be afraid of backlash. You can, however, wear a lime green ribbon and explain to those who ask that you believe in combating the stigma against those with mental illness and seek equality for those who are affected.
In summation, whether you recycle, ride a bike rather than driving, or wear a support ribbon, make the world you want to live in—one gesture at a time.
Blog posts are written by Shore House members and staff.