RIVANE NEUENSCHWANDER: My name is Rivane Neuenschwander and I’m talking from Brazil. You are looking through a series of paintings that I did on top of actual comic books. I erased all words and all images.
NARRATOR: The series features a popular Walt Disney character named Zé Carioca in Brazil, which means Joe from Rio in English.
RIVANE NEUENSCHWANDER: Carioca is the word for somebody that comes from Rio de Janeiro.
Zé Carioca was created in ’41 during the Second World War. The United States was trying to find support for the war with the Latin American countries. So Walt Disney went to Argentina, he went to Mexico and he came to Brazil. He chose different animals to represent different countries, and Brazil was a parrot.
And it’s a parrot that plays football and he’s a kind of a lazy guy. He lives in the favella, in the shantytowns. He’s a womanizer, all the stereotypes of a guy from Rio de Janeiro.
NARRATOR: This old-fashioned stereotypical character of the parrot has been beloved in Brazil since its creation. In 2003, a special volume was published to commemorate 60 years of Zé Carioca cartoons. Neuenschwander dismantled the pages from this book and painted directly over them. She kept all the pages of each story together, so, as you can see here, the series have different lengths. Some have seven panels, while others have ten or more sheets, depending on the original cartoon.
RIVANE NEUENSCHWANDER: Every cell had a very nice color on the background, usually very bright, orange and blue. It doesn’t matter their reality. The sky could be yellow I thought they were really beautiful. So I decided to bring those background colors to the front.
I hope [people] might end up intrigued by what is behind those very geometric, abstract paintings. You can make up stories out of the emptiness of the balloons, you can put your own words and people and characters. But you can also have a look on the titles and try to figure out what the story was about.