For more than 10 years, Pier Paolo Spinazze has been using his artistic talent to combat hate in his little corner of the world.
Pier lives in Verona, Italy, where traces of fascism persist long after the end of World War II. Symbols of extremism like swastikas and Celtic crosses often pop up in graffiti around the city. When someone sees one of these symbols, they contact Pier, who calls himself Cibo — Italian for “food.”
“I’m 39 years old and I do street art,” Cibo explains. “I take care of my city by replacing symbols of hate with delicious things to eat.”
Cibo decided to start covering the graffiti with paintings of fruits, vegetables, mozzarella, basil, and other well-loved ingredients of Italian cuisine for very simple reasons. For one thing, Italy is known around the world for its delicious food. For another, everyone loves to eat, and food images tend to grab people’s attention in a positive way.
“I started to cancel the swastikas, the Celtic crosses, the symbols of hate because I was sick of seeing them,” said Cibo. “I believe that every citizen should do something for their community, so I do it for this reason, and because I am very good at design.”
Cibo, who went to university to study art and design, sincerely believes that every citizen should use their own abilities and talents to fight hate speech and racism.
“The message I want to give with my art,” he said, “is that everyone can make a difference and can give something back to the community with their own skills and their own creativity.”
Often, tips about negative graffiti locations come in through Instagram, where Cibo has more than 369,000 followers. Once he covers up the graffiti with a food mural, he adds the location on a map and checks up on them to make sure they haven’t been tampered with.
”Usually my followers warn me that there’s a really bad thing to get rid of, and also over the years I’ve trained my eyes so that when I drive past them, I recognize them immediately,” he said. “Now, for example, near my house there are a lot of places where I’ve created murals, many of them have been pointed out to me, but living here you can see them.”
Naturally, not everyone is enthusiastic about Cibo’s mission. In fact, he has received death threats from extremists, but he’s not deterred.
“Dealing with extremists is never good, because they are violent people, they are used to violence, but they are also cowards and very stupid,” he explained.
“The important thing is to rediscover values that we may have forgotten, especially anti-fascism and the fight against totalitarian regimes that stem from the Second World War. We must remind ourselves of these values.”
Cibo is a true warrior for goodness, but instead of a sword he wields a paintbrush! He’s also inspiring others to do whatever they can to replace hate with love.
Share this story to celebrate Cibo’s mission.
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