How individual creative projects shape Lisbon’s community and cultural scene: Part II
An insider’s tour of the city’s most interesting cultural institutions, Lisbon
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Along with Inês Matos Andrade and Paula Cosme Pinto of O Apartamento we continue exploring Lisbon’s rich cultural fabric and the individuals defining its creative landscape and enhancing the local atmosphere.

The second part of our urban journey introduces us to two street artists who treat the city’s surfaces as their inexhaustible canvas using villainous sobriquets to sign their murals. Two women with a powerful vision have revived the formerly notorious barrio Intendente through their manifold cultural venue, while Ricardo Cortiço fulfils what he considers his cultural duty by cataloging different types of tiles, thus perpetuating his grandfather’s legacy. Equally devoted to tradition but in a different sense, Miguel Leão founded his own barbershop—named after a legendary Portuguese boxer—after years of training next to master craftsmen in the field. Grooming aside, for Isabel Soares appearance shouldn’t matter that much, especially when it comes to fresh produce. Misshapen apples and crooked carrots take center stage at her fruit and vegetable delivery company which solely supplies its clients with goods that were rejected due to their unappealing appearance.

In case you missed it, click over to Part I to follow more intriguing personalities boosting the Portuguese capital’s creative energy.

AKA Corleone and Kruella d’Enfer: Two friendly villains

Lisbon’s urban spaces turn into canvases for the self-taught street artists

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They may have mobster names but, when they describe each other, they sound more like characters out of a romantic comedy. He says, “She is the most creative woman I know, she’s full of surprises”; she says, “He is the humblest, friendliest and most good-humored man ever.” You can feel the warmth of these words when gazing at their work, where fantasy and humor seem to go hand in hand.

For these two illustrators and street artists, Lisbon has been their canvas, and it’s here they’ve contributed to opening the city to the charms of urban art. But let us go back to 2009, when they fell in love via chat. Ângela Ferreira—who nowadays wears the skin of Kruella d’Enfer—was a student of urban and environmental design. Pedro Campiche—AKA Corleone was a graphic designer before he was led a-spray. Both hated the courses their lives were taking and found the understanding they sought in each other.

“Us being together was essential. One pushes the other, we never let ourselves be dragged down.”

“Above all, we enjoyed drawing and getting ideas from magazines and fanzines, it was something we had in common.” They quickly realized they had a knack for it. Self-taught and living in a small town 100 kilometers from Lisbon, they started sending their experiments to fanzines and galleries dedicated to young talent, experimented in abandoned factories, all the while sharing their work on social media.

In 2012 they moved to Lisbon, and through a variety of pro bono work and collective exhibitions they began to gain recognition for their work. “To persist and take risks became the motto,” says Pedro. “Us being together was essential. One pushes the other, we never let ourselves get dragged down.” That’s what happened when they were invited to participate in an urban art festival in Bangkok. She thought it was impossible, he didn’t let them give up. When the Portuguese Embassy subsidized their trip, they realized they were reaching a turning point. They went, they showed their worth, they were applauded and gained stature.

Nowadays, their work is spread all over Lisbon, from façades to murals, recycling bins and coworking spaces. They always work together, either painting or as each other’s assistant. They use the same colors and have similar styles, but draw a hard line between what inspires them: Kruella d’Enfer plays with mysticism and the surreal, AKA Corleone is inspired by elements of comic art, typography, the cities he visits and the deconstruction of humankind. Individually or together, they are a reference. “Urban art is a sign of a city’s maturity, and Lisbon is serving as an example for the rest of the country,” concluded the artist couple. “In 10 years’ time, when people speak of this pioneering movement, we will feel proud of having been a part of it.”

Casa Independente: Two women, one open-minded vision

A multifaceted venue reviving a notorious neighborhood

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Inês Valdez and Patrícia Craveiro Lopes do not consider themselves visionary, but they admit to having good powers of observation. When, in 2012, they came across a building in ruins in a Lisbon square considered to be off-limits, they both felt it was a good idea to keep it. The Intendente neighborhood was making baby steps to tackle serious social problems such as prostitution and drug addiction. “The dynamics of change were already latent, all that was needed was the ability to see beyond the obvious.”

They were not mistaken. Both have links to the arts and event production, they decided to create a venue which, at night, would house a café, events, concerts, exhibitions and workshops. At the same time, during the day, they planned on harboring people from the neighborhood, with social programs dedicated especially to children. They would name all this Casa Independente (Independent House).

“The dynamics of change were already latent, all that was needed was the ability to see beyond the obvious.”

Four years ago, many people told them they were crazy for trying to move forward with such an idea in that particular neighborhood. Today, Casa Independente is one of the hallmarks of Lisbon life, with an agenda filled with music, photography, dance and gastronomy. A pioneering project which itself became a driver for many others that followed, bringing new life to Intendente.

“This area used to be off-limits, but nowadays it’s almost a living room for Lisbon. Democratic and cross-sectional,” explain Patrícia and Inês, daily cicerones to those who visit the space. Fun, assertive and eclectic, they are a good representation of the independent spirit of the house they brought to life. From the window, they delightedly look out onto what’s changed in the area: what was once a square filled with marginalized groups became a meeting place for people from all over the city.

Entry is free. Inside, rooms large and small have been decorated with leftover used furniture, restored by hand by Patrícia and Inês. An enormous tiger contrasts with a vertical garden on the wall of the concert room, the bathrooms are singularly ironic, and on the terrace the old sofas are an invitation to linger on summer afternoons. And the truth is everyone seems to want to prolong their visit.

Cortiço & Netos: Tiles with history

Salvaging traditional materials along with their owners’ stories

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In the documentary short film that Ricardo Cortiço made about his grandfather, it’s easy to get a sense of the tremendous size of the Cortiço family’s tile collection. This collection was assembled over a period of thirty years by Joaquim, also known as Avô Cortiço (Grandfather Cortiço).

In 1979, Joaquim Cortiço opened a shop that sold building materials. Portugal had recently ceased to be a dictatorship, it was opening up its borders, exposing itself to the world, and the demand for new types of materials for houses led to tiles becoming obsolete. “Since those old materials fell into disuse and space needed to be freed up in order to stock up on the new options, tiles were sold at very low prices,” explains 28-year-old Ricardo Cortiço, one of the four brothers that run the Cortiço & Netos shop—the others being 38-year-old Pedro, João, 35, and Tiago, 23.

Avô Cortiço used to buy everything, following no particular criteria and without realizing how much he was contributing to the preservation of a national heritage. He was motivated by the letters he received, asking him if he had this or that tile, needed to complete a kitchen or bathroom wall. These letters were accompanied by photographs of tiles in personal or family settings. “We have a photo that was sent to our grandfather showing a girl wearing a mask and dancing. Behind her is the tile that the person sought. This is something that still happens at the new shop, to this day. We receive e-mails with pictures showing hands, feet and even cats,” shares Tiago, the youngest of the brothers. This emotional relationship that Portuguese people have with tiles lends legitimacy to the work the Cortiço brothers do. “My grandfather used to tell the story of a man who traveled from Alentejo in search of two tiles for his pool and started crying when he found them.”

“My grandfather used to tell the story of a man who traveled from Alentejo in search of two tiles for his pool and started crying when he found them.”

In 2009, the City Hall forced Avô Cortiço out of his shop to build a freeway. During demolition, many tiles were destroyed and discarded. Fortunately, due to lack of space, the grandfather had been storing a large part of the material in a lot he kept on the outskirts of Lisbon. In the tail end of 2014, the four brothers opened a shop in Mouraria, which currently sells 300 different tile references. “We try to catalog everything but, just the other day, we found another 10 square meters of tiles. That’s 450 tiles,” vents Ricardo, while explaining that, informally, they have managed to identify 900 different tile patterns. “Besides the family responsibility we have because of our grandfather, who already passed away, we have a cultural duty. There used to be more than 20 tile factories, today there is nothing. Even with all the tiles we are able to collect, one day there will be no more.”

Nowadays, it is possible to admire them, one by one, on the shelves of the Cortiço & Netos (Cortiço & Grandsons), which was designed by the eldest brother, Pedro. They are divided into three typologies: rarer or relief tiles, intermediate tiles, and the ones of which there is a greater quantity. Their affordable prices prove that the idea is to share this art with the public. “We don’t want the tiles for ourselves, even though we keep 20 copies of each pattern/type, both for our private collection and so that, in the future, we can prepare an exhibition,” says Ricardo. Tiago, the youngest, adds: “and a book in which the pictures and letters our grandfather received can also be included.”

Miguel Leão: A barber who knows his craft, and his swag

A rockabilly barbershop named after a legendary Portuguese boxer

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“Boxing, beards and rock’n’roll” could well be the motto for the barbershop that Miguel Leão proudly runs near the Elevador da Glória, in Lisbon. Miguel was born in Olivais, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, where he used to cut his friends’ hair just for kicks. “I was the only one who owned hair clippers, which an uncle of mine had given to me for Christmas, and they’d let me cut theirs. Once I gave my grandmother a buzz cut.” His grandmother never ratted him out.

Miguel completed his studies and became a financial controller in commercial aviation. He was, as is often the case in these stories of lives turned upside down, an unhappy man. “When I realized that I had to stop and seek a new life, it was obvious for me that, if I enjoyed cutting hair, that’s what I should delve into.” He started by spending his Saturdays in neighborhood barbershops, talking to the old men of whom he’d once been a client. In Portugal, at the time, you had to have a hairdresser’s license, so Miguel went to night school and worked during the day. After a short period of time, he managed to join the ranks at Barbearia Campos, the most emblematic barbershop in Lisbon, inaugurated in 1886. “Being a barber requires training. You use dangerous tools and have to adhere to methods and hygiene practices.” Watching YouTube tutorials, like the newer barbers do, isn’t enough to learn these things. “Becoming a good barber takes ten years, not three months.

“When I realized that I had to stop and seek a new life, it was obvious for me that, if I enjoyed cutting hair, that’s what I should delve into.”

Learning to be an old school barber takes time, and it is the master who determines whether or not you can go up another step and when you are ready to be a barber.” And Miguel was ready when a group of Norwegians walked into Barbearia Campor to have their hair cut. Later, they invited him to move to Oslo and open the first new barbershop in town since the ’70s. For a year and a half, Miguel came to Portugal every month to be with his family and cut the hair of the more loyal of his 400 clients. “I could have stayed there, I could have accepted that society and expanded the barbershop business to Berlin. But I wanted to have my own space here. And I didn’t want to deprive my family of the life they had, of this sun, just for money. Money isn’t everything.” While still living abroad, and in just one month, Miguel Leão opened Belarmino in an old rockabilly bar called Fuga de Óleo. The name for the barbershop was picked while he was cutting the hair of a customer who worked for an advertising agency: “He asked me ‘What are your influences? What else do you like?’ Skateboarding and boxing, I replied. ‘Boxing is good, boxing is noble’, he said. I wanted it to be a Portuguese reference. We remembered Belarmino, the greatest Portuguese boxer who fought in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, decades which strongly influenced the haircuts that I do.” When a customer walks in, Miguel analyzes their bone structure, style, profession, type of hair. On the counter, there are scissors, combs, balms, tonics, oils and ointments. On the radio, electric guitars play frenetically.

Fruta Feia: Defending misshapen fruit and vegetables

A food delivery company fighting wastefulness in agriculture

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Beautiful people eat ugly fruit. This is the motto with which, every week, the Fruta Feia team delivers baskets of vegetables to more than 800 people.

It all started in Barcelona, when Isabel Soares realized that only the most beautiful and adequately sized fruit and vegetables made it onto the shelves at supermarkets. “I realized that enormous quantities of food went to waste, and that made me upset: How is it that such good products are thrown out for aesthetic reasons? If I was willing to eat smaller and less shapely fruit, I thought there might be others like me.” She gobbled up documentaries, read up on the subject, became as informed as she could. If this was the case in Spain, it was likely the same in Portugal. When she went home for Christmas, she asked a farmer uncle of hers if there was a lot of waste. He told her that, that year alone, 40% of his pears had been thrown out for no other reason than being small. “And my uncle’s pears are really tasty,” she guarantees.

“No one believed that I wanted to pay a fair price for ugly fruit. Mr. Raposo even kicked me out of his farm, at one point.”

She drew up a plan and applied for financial assistance for people living abroad who have good ideas for the country. She came in in second place and returned to Portugal carrying a great deal of fear in her luggage. “The initial budget for launching the project was 24000 €, and second place only received 15000 €. It would get the project off the ground, but it wasn’t enough. I cut down on costs, I raised money through crowdfunding, and I opted for a more sustainable social model, a consumer cooperative.” In November 2013, Fruta Feia kicked off with 10 farmers supplying the products, 100 members—who pay an annual fee of 5 € and buy a basket every week – and more than 160 people on the waiting list. Three years on, those numbers have grown dramatically: 44 farmers, 800 members, and more than 3200 people waiting to join. “We are growing and we want to expand, but not too hastily,” explains Isabel. “Even though Fruta Feia is self-sustainable, we want to maintain the personalized relationship we have with the farmers and the consumers, and, for that, we can only serve 300 people at a time at each delivery point.” The only way to accept more people is by creating new delivery locations, and that requires investment. “We just received funding from the European Union, for which we pledged to add eight delivery points in the next three years.” This has already allowed Fruta Feia to extend operations to Porto, since the beginning of this past May, where it collaborates with more than 40 farmers from the north of the country.

Isabel laughs when she recalls how difficult it was to persuade farmers to sell her fruit that others had rejected in the past. “No one believed that I wanted to pay a fair price for ugly fruit. Mr. Raposo even kicked me out of his farm, at one point.” Nowadays, Isabel works with five other people and 80 volunteers. Almost all of them know the farmers’ stories—you can hear them too, on their website.

It’s been amazing exploring Lisbon’s rich cultural scene and noteworthy initiatives through the eyes of Inês and Paula of O Apartamento. In case you missed it, click over to Part I to follow more intriguing personalities boosting the Portuguese capital’s creative energy. See more of the Lisbon’s exciting creative practitioners.

Text: Inês Matos Andrade & Paula Cosme Pinto
Photography: Nuno Fox