Shuk street artist Solomon Souza takes his talent to Goa

Souza has deep roots in Goa, because his maternal grandfather, Francis Newton Souza, was born in Goa and became “the Indian Picasso.”

Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market at night. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market at night.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Solomon Souza, a London-born, Israel-based street artist who has spray-painted vivid portraits of famous figures from Jewish history – including David Ben-Gurion, Albert Einstein, Golda Meir and hundreds of others (as well as a few non-Jews) – all over the Mahaneh Yehuda market (known as “the shuk” to Jerusalemites), is now taking his talent to Goa.
Reached by telephone in India, he confirmed that he is at work there on a similar project, but one that immortalizes famous figures from Goan history, as well as some forgotten characters, for the Serendipity Art Festival, one of the largest arts festivals in India. Vivek Menezes, the special projects curator, suggested Souza come and do for Goa what he did for the shuk, which has a nice irony when you consider how popular a destination Goa has been for decades with Israeli tourists.
Souza has deep roots in Goa, because his maternal grandfather, Francis Newton Souza, was born in Goa and became “the Indian Picasso.” While his grandfather became famous all over the subcontinent, “His work wasn’t as well known in Goa,” said Souza. He is trying to rectify that through his own street work there, which he feels is influenced by his grandfather.
“He was a fundamental figure in my life,” said Souza, although he did not see his legendary grandfather that often. “I grew up surrounded by his work. I am very much a Souza. He instilled a need to create at a young age.”
His portraits of Goan figures are “giving them new life on the walls and telling their stories.”
Jerusalem art lovers have been admiring his work here for years, although they may not know who was behind it.
Souza grew up in London and came to Israel as a child. He returned to attend yeshiva when he was in his late teens, after his mother, who is Jewish, “made a deal with me that I should study in Jerusalem, because I was doing some stupid things. It probably saved me. I’m thankful to my mom for making that deal.” He studied at a number of yeshivas, including the Rap, which gave him freedom to keep creating art.
 
 
 
 
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When his friend from yeshiva, Berel Hahn, “had a revelation that we need to paint the whole thing, the whole shuk, to change the environment, I agreed.” One woman gave him permission to paint the shutters on her storefronts, which he did in a single night, and “it just snowballed, it really picked up. The next day all her neighbors wanted theirs painted. Everyone took quite well to it.”
The idea was to give the shuk some life on Shabbat when all the shutters were closed, “and it was so quiet and empty, such a contrast to the bustle and life on the weekdays... so this gave it a splash of color.”
Although everyone seems to love his murals now, the Municipality forbade him from continuing and one point, “I was arrested and they dragged me out in handcuffs.” The local shop owners in the shuk, who supported his work, got together to prove that the shuk was privately owned and that they had invited him to decorate the shutters.
“We were supported by our family and friends, but not by the Municipality, although I hear they boast about my paintings now,” he said.
When he’s done in Goa, he’s heading home, which is currently Tel Aviv, “but I’m trying to move back to Jerusalem. I’ve got big ideas for the Holy City.”