In 2014, I was chosen as a volunteer for the Street Child World Cup - the biggest non profit sports tournament in the world that provides a platform for street children globally to stand up for their rights. A month before the tournament the Captain of Team Brazil - Rodrigo Kelton was murdered on his 14th birthday in his home state Ceara. I decided to paint Rodrigo before I left for Brazil; this is the story of my first oil painting.
"Rodrigo Kelton: Invisible Children." February 2nd, 2000 - February 2nd, 2014. 18 Children are killed every hour in Brazil. The locals call them "Invisible children" because they are voiceless, powerless, and oft-ignored. Left to a life of struggle in the shadows from where they were born. I painted this young man because I resonated with his story, with who he was. All he wanted to do was play football, his dream was to be a professional soccer player and this is what got him off the streets. Through soccer and school he was finally in a good place. That was until he went to visit his mom and a young lady he was seeing in an inner state of Fortaleza with his brother. As he was just yards from his mom’s place a bullet struck him in his leg... then his shoulder. And two more in the back of his head. As he collapsed his mom ran outside. He was on the ground and his last words to his mom were ”Please don’t let me die, Mum.” But no one could help. Rodrigo was shot because of an alleged ”robbery” that took place years prior. The only reason his brother survived was because the gun jammed. Rodrigo wanted to play professional football so he could help his mom get help with her drug addiction.
That same day 11 other children were killed in Ceara; a state in Fortaleza. There is no investigation into any of these murders, no justice, no consequences; the government doesn't even acknowledge these children exist. "Invisible children”. So I decided to make Rodrigo visible; honour him, celebrate him, try and bring his spirit to life through the painting.