Tiago Ishiyama ✿ It’s all or nothing in the favela


20 March 2024

Paul Sepaniak pays tribute to his friend, an inspiring Brazilian street artist of Japanese ancestry

In the bustling streets of São Paulo, amidst the vibrant chaos of Heliopolis, there lived a soul whose essence transcended the boundaries of mere existence. Tiago Ishiyama, known to the world as 8ou80, was more than just a friend; he was the embodiment of resilience, creativity, and activism.

Tiago’s artist name, 8ou80, holds significant meaning within Portuguese culture. “Oito ou oitenta” is a popular expression used to define something of extremes, signifying “all or nothing.” It’s often associated with the personality or behavior of individuals who approach life with unwavering determination and intensity. In choosing this name, Tiago not only embraced his Brazilian roots but also encapsulated the essence of his art and activism—a relentless pursuit of change and a refusal to settle for anything less than total transformation.

Born and raised in Brazil’s largest favela, Tiago’s roots intertwined with the rich tapestry of his Japanese ancestry. His art bore witness to this fusion, each stroke on the canvas a testament to his heritage and the struggles of his community.

I remember the first time I met Tiago, amidst the bustling energy of a São Paulo art gallery. Despite our different backgrounds, we connected instantly, bound by a shared vision of using art as a vehicle for change. Tiago wasn’t just an artist; he was an activist, channeling his passion into a force for societal transformation.

His journey into the world of street art was as organic as the roots that anchored him to Heliopolis. From a young age, Tiago’s artistic spirit flourished, nurtured by the vibrant streets of his neighborhood. Influenced by the rhythms of hip-hop music, the ethos of Japanese culture, and the raw authenticity of favela life, his art became a reflection of the world he inhabited.

Tiago’s rise in the world of street art was meteoric yet grounded in humility. He didn’t wait for walls to be commissioned; he painted the streets with his truth, each mural a proclamation of resistance and resilience. Social media became his canvas, amplifying his message to audiences far beyond São Paulo’s borders.

One of Tiago’s most profound artistic endeavors was the Amazon Favela series. Through his work, he juxtaposed the struggles of favela life with the plight of wildlife in the Amazon rainforest, shining a spotlight on the interconnectedness of social and environmental injustice.

His plans were not grandiose dreams of escape but rooted in a steadfast commitment to growth and change from within.

But Tiago’s impact extended beyond the realm of art. He was a beacon of hope in a sea of adversity, dedicated to uplifting his community through educational initiatives and grassroots activism. For example, he worked as an educator for children through the group ‘Avante O Coletivo’. His plans were not grandiose dreams of escape but rooted in a steadfast commitment to growth and change from within.

Tiago was an integral part of Amazonie Immersive, an event series aimed at honoring indigenous people and raising awareness about environmental issues. His contributions, whether through his captivating artwork or his engaging workshops, played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape of the event. Tiago’s presence was not only felt in his art but also in the passion and dedication he brought to every aspect of Amazonie Immersive, leaving an indelible mark on all who had the privilege of experiencing his artistry firsthand.

Tragically, Tiago’s life was cut short by senseless violence. Only days after an event for the bicentenary of Brazil’s independence day, where Tiago showcased his Amazon Favela series and denounced governmental oppression through his art, he was fatally shot in his home. His untimely death sent shockwaves through the artistic community, leaving behind a void that could never be filled.

Tiago’s passing was a profound loss, yet it ignited a fire within us, fueling our determination to carry on his legacy. His art was not merely paint on walls but a rallying cry for change. As we mourned his absence, we found strength in unity, coming together with renewed resolve to continue the fight for justice and equality. Tiago’s spirit lives on in every brushstroke, every mural, and every heart touched by his vision. His work will remain a cornerstone of our exhibitions, a reminder of the power of art to inspire, to provoke, and to transcend. Though he may no longer walk among us, Tiago Ishiyama, 8ou80, will forever be remembered as an artivist whose passion and courage sparked a movement that will endure for generations to come.

Tiago posted at @oito80tws.


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