The swastikas on the wall turn into giant cupcakes with purple frosting, and the words “my Hitler” turn into “my muffins”. All in a day’s work for the Italian street artist who fights against racism by turning nasty graffiti into food.
“I take care of my city by replacing the symbols of hate with delicious things to eat,” explains the 39-year-old artist, whose real name is Pier Paolo Spinazze and whose professional name, Cibo, is the Italian word for food.
On a recent sunny morning, he had been alerted by one of his 363,000 Instagram followers that there were swastikas and racial slurs in a small tunnel on the outskirts of Verona.
He turned around, wearing his straw hat and his necklace of stuffed sausages. He pulled out his bag of spray paint and got to work, as the cars beeped.
He covered the insults with a shiny slice of margherita pizza and a caprese salad – mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. A swastika turned into a huge red tomato. As he created the murals in the tunnel, which each took about 15 minutes, people walked by, looking out the windows to watch and wave.
An art teacher rolled down his window to compliment his work.
In recent years, human rights groups have warned of rising racism in Italy following massive immigration from Africa. Fascist culture and the war dictator Benito Mussolini still have a hard core of admirers.
Having become a local celebrity in Verona, he also made enemies: “Cibo sleeps with the lights on! someone spray painted on a wall. He turned the menace into ingredients for a gnocchi recipe.
“Dealing with extremists is never good, because they are violent people, they are used to violence, but they are also cowardly and very stupid,” Spinazze said.
“The important thing is to rediscover values that we may have forgotten, in particular anti-fascism and the fight against totalitarian regimes resulting from the Second World War”, he declared. “We have to remember these values.