Panmela Castro (Rio de Janeiro, 1981) is a visual artist with a master's degree in contemporary artistic processes from the Art Institute at the State University Of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and a bachelor's degree in painting from the Fine Arts School at Federal University Of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), whose marginalized background was the ignite for her practice. With a special interest in performance, she dedicates herself to create confessional artworks related to personal experiences of violence and the imprisonment of binary and heteronormative thinking. Aside from her performances which are her main object, her production goes beyond to photography, video, objects, sculptures and participative installations, as well as her world-famous murals.
The artist has developed art projects in cities in Brazil, the United States, England, Canada, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Holland, Austria, Norway, Israel, Turkey, Arab Emirates, South Africa, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and others. She has exhibited her work in museums such as the Stedelijk in Amsterdam and MUBE (Brazilian Sculpture Museum), in São Paulo. Her works are part of collections in the United Nations, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington D.C., the Museum of the Republic in Rio de Janeiro, and the House of Representatives in Brasilia.
In 2017 she painted the mural, Femme Maison for the Triennial Arts Frestas by curator Daniela Labra invitation. The mural is based on the artist's paint that is part of the collection of the Urban National Museum in Berlin; it shows two female heads intertwined with a flower, which has been accused of representing a vagina, and became a scandal amongst the conservatives of the city. During 7 minutes, Pastor Luis Santos delivered a set of outdated criticisms against the artist (Panmela incorporated the video of the speech as her work) leading the public ministry to file a lawsuit against SESC Sorocaba, which was forced to remove the painting at the end of the Triennal. The case became known as one of the first episodes of the art censorship wave together with the case of the Queer Museum Exhibition and the performance "La Betê" at the Mordem Art Museum Of São Paulo. In December of 2019, her work became censured again during the Miami Art week (Art Basel), one of the most important place for the art world.
The artist likes to say these unique experiences with the marginality of graffiti taught her more than art school ever did; that many of her perceptions of human rights came from this period when she experienced, physically and mentally, different kinds of violence.
Panmela Castro was raised as a "white girl" by her conservative lower middle-class family in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Her mother faced financial trouble and domestic violence with her first husband, she ran away and remarried a man who gave her a dignified life and raised Panmela as his legitimate daughter. With almost no formal education, her new father arranged for her to dedicate herself to her studies until, at the age of 15, Panmela was forced to work following her father's bankruptcy. With her family destabilized, she abandoned her parents' house and lived in one of the most dangerous slums in the city. To pay her bills and schooling, in addition to teaching, she began to draw people on the streets and sell the pieces for 1 Brazilian Real. It was also at that time that, using the alias Anarkia Boladona, she became the first girl of her generation to climb buildings to spray her tag. Panmela was one of the first graffiti writers to paint trains in Rio and she made illegally interventions all city.
In 2005, she began to dedicate herself to mural painting after a negative experience with domestic violence: she was beaten and kept in a private prison by her partner, and this experience definitely influenced the political nature of her works.
Panmela Castro has received many human rights nominations for her activist work in the arts, such as the Vital Voices Leadership Awards (D.C, 2010), the DVF Awards (NY, 2012), the Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum (2013) and has appeared on important lists such as the American magazine Newsweek as one of "150 Fearless Women Who Are Shaking the World" (2012), among others. In 2007, CNN nominated her as the Brazilian Graffiti Queen. Panmela is the theme of different media platforms such as American TV PBS and the TV Globo program called Fantástico. She is a character in textbooks, art, leadership and human rights books; academic articles, and in other major media around the world.
To bring about effective change in society, Panmela founded the Rede NAMI, an arts and human rights institution where, since 2010, has invested in more than 9,000 women and today is dedicated to black women who are the most affected by feminicide in the country.