On the hottest weekend of the summer, Rotterdam’s Feijenoord district welcomed art enthusiasts and curious onlookers to the third edition of the All Caps festival, formerly known as Pow! Wow! Rotterdam. This district, once primarily recognized for its football stadium, has evolved into the epicenter of urban art in the city, all thanks to the unwavering passion of a dedicated team. The area now boasts over thirty impressive large-scale murals created by internationally renowned street artists, forming the captivating “Feijenoord Street Art Route.” This initiative is part of the city’s broader urban development project aimed at enhancing the quality of life in this unique neighborhood.
As I arrived from the city center, the very first mural that captured my attention was a sprawling creation by the French artist OneSiker. Over six intense days, this artist’s canvas was a 155-meter-long viaduct tucked beneath the train tracks, where he channeled his vital energy with airless paint sprayers and fire extinguishers. With the assistance of two dedicated helpers operating a lift to ensure his powerful artistic strokes remained uninterrupted, the old-school graffiti writer vented his creative prowess onto the entire surface, in an outburst that recalls graffiti bombing. OneSiker’s work is dynamic, exuding a profound sense of movement and kinetic energy, amplified by the trains rumbling overhead. Utilizing unconventional tools like airless paint sprayers and fire extinguishers, the outcome is delightfully unpredictable. OneSiker embraces chance and spontaneity in his art, focusing on abstraction and allowing for expansive, intuitive gestures.
Yet another mural that harnessed the energy of the trains racing above it is the monochromatic masterpiece by Danish artist Anders Reventlov. Anders draws inspiration from his graffiti roots, capturing the essence of fluidity and movement, a symphony of kinetic energy. Dancing upon a black canvas, his white lines evoke the fluid motion of throw-ups. His works, scattered across the globe, are interconnected, forming a vast organic tapestry that is forever evolving.
On the other side of the boulevard, in the area that hosted Rotterdam’s weekend-long celebration of street culture, complete with stages for live music, sports, and street food, four artists painted next to each other to adorn the towering warehouses that define the industrial skyline of this district.
The Portuguese artist Jorge Charrua crafted an emotionally charged mural featuring members of Rotterdam’s basketball team. His artwork is a testament to the humanity of these athletes, portraying them as individuals before champions. What truly left an impression on me was Jorge’s dedication as he worked such a large and uneven surface with an extension pole: despite the limited control it offered, the resulting portraits are intensely expressive, with deliberately gritty details that resonate with the streets. The mural’s underlying message is clear: before they were professional athletes, these individuals honed their skills on the streets. Basketball is deeply intertwined with hip hop culture, and basketball courts have often served as canvases for graffiti and street art. The mural’s message is a reminder: never forget where you come from.
Adjacent to Jorge’s work stands a double portrait by Rotterdam’s own muralist, Ricardo van Zwol. His mural, bathed in magenta hues, intricately details two faces. These realistic portraits intertwine with geometric shapes and sharp lines, creating a fragmented image.
On the building next door, two contrasting yet harmonious murals await. On the left, Dutch artist Tommy Hagen unveils one of his abstract compositions, marked by sharp lines inspired by his previous career as a hairstylist. His murals embrace minimalist forms and bold colors, featuring lines reminiscent of brutalist architecture, characterized by blocky shapes and hard-edged forms.
Beside Tommy Hagen’s piece, Australian artist George Rose presents a floral composition that radiates positivity and energy. Her vibrant graphic style draws viewers in, uplifting their spirits with an engaging color palette and recurring arc motifs. George’s captivating murals delve into the fragility of nature, spotlighting endangered and endemic flora while transforming the microscopic into the macroscopic.
Another artist who uses flowers to spread joy and positivity is London-based Sophie Mess, who graces a nearby corner with her vibrant botanical-inspired mural. Sophie’s detailed flowers juxtaposed against the urban backdrop create a harmonious fusion of contrasting elements, inspiring positivity and wonder.
In the northern part of Feijenoord, residents had hoped for a mural reminiscent of the uplifting floral artistry by Sophie Mess and George Rose. However, their anticipation turned to revulsion when they saw what Brazilian pixadora Eneri had in store for their area.
Eneri is among the few women practicing pixação, a Brazilian artistic and political movement that amplifies the voices of the marginalized. By painting stylized black words in the most inaccessible spots in São Paulo, pixadores risk their lives to represent the unseen and reclaim the city on behalf of the marginalized. The Pixo movement, rooted in Brazil’s popular typography culture, inherits its aesthetics from hardcore punk-rock album covers, transferring those unrefined, cryptic symbols onto walls as a form of individual expression and political activism.
Pixação isn’t meant to be aesthetically pleasing, but it seems the residents were not prepared for what Eneri had in store. Her mural is a bold and unapologetic statement, challenging the Dutch people to confront their historical role in exploiting and colonizing entire continents for centuries. The mural posed difficult questions, with one side asking, “How big is the debt of developed countries with the 3rd world?” while the other proclaimed, “The effects of colonization still persist.” Unsurprisingly, this direct confrontation didn’t sit well with the Dutchies, leading to backlash on social media and in newspapers.
The challenge to reconcile with residents was taken up by Stohead and Mina Mania, two Berlin-based artists who created a colorful mural at the end of the same street. Their distinct styles turned out to be complementary: Stohead showcased his signature ‘Round Tip’ calligraphy with the words ‘One Love,’ while Mina Mania contributed her characteristic comic-inspired figures, characterized by clear forms and lines. The vibrant colors infused energy into this piece, and its location overlooking the water made it all the more special.
Two more murals engage in a meaningful dialogue back at the festival’s main area. Rotterdam-based artist Barbara Helmer abstracted natural gem shapes to create a mural reflecting the beauty and harmony hidden within these organic forms. Her work focuses on fractions, the smaller components of a whole, and how light filters through stones like quartz and minerals. In this mural, two gems, one pointing upward and the other downward, form a mineral yin and yang symbolizing balance and beauty.
Right next to Barbara’s masterpiece, old-school graffiti writer Adrian Falkner paid tribute to his 28-year journey in the graffiti world under the moniker of SMASH137. His piece is a celebration of graffiti lettering, featuring the bold, intricate and ‘cracked’ letters of his name. What struck me most was Falkner’s technical precision and the way he layered colors, creating a mesmerizing composition. As I watched him work, his hand moved with remarkable speed and steadiness, and he even incorporated the color of a nearby sign into his piece, engaging with the local environment in a seamless way.
Throughout the festival week, the streets of Rotterdam saw interventions by local poster artist Jimmy Granti and French street artist Le Diamantaire.
Inspired by French street art pioneer Invader, who was the first to decontextualize mosaics, taking them out of opulent villas and bringing them into the streets, Le Diamantaire transformed discarded mirrors into street installations shaped like diamonds. These hidden gems, quite literally, were born from waste and conveyed a powerful message: that luxury could be offered to passersby through art.
Jimmy Granti, on the other hand, drew inspiration from Dutch boxing legend Cor Eversteijn, much like Shepard Fairey did with wrestler André the Giant. Cor Eversteijn’s face had become a symbol of Rotterdam, adorning stickers and posters throughout the city. Granti expanded this concept by creating a series of images featuring local heroes, including the boxing coach Van Den Heerik, who had transformed the lives of many local kids through sport.
The poster featuring Van Den Heerik’s face was affixed to the door of one of the former gas domes in Mallegatpark, the site of All Caps’ Super Sunday block party. This full-day extravaganza included street food, breakdancing, graffiti workshops, live paintings and hip-hop music—a celebration of urban culture in its purest form.
The second gas dome hosted an exhibition by graffiti writers VOID, NIMROD, and GRAUNESS. Visitors had the opportunity to step inside the secret world of The Dark Oak, a graffiti secret society that had operated between 2018 and 2021 at a freight train yard in Amsterdam West.
Beyond the murals and street installations, the All Caps Festival offered an extensive program of talks and events, conducted either in Dutch or in English, to deepen visitors’ understanding of graffiti culture and the contemporary urban art movement. These discussions covered a wide range of topics dear to street culture, from the origins of hip-hop culture—celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023—to the launch of the book “Picture This: Rotterdam Street Art Photography.”
One standout moment was the screening of the documentary “Martha: A Picture Story,” directed by Selina Miles. This documentary delved into the life of legendary graffiti photographer Martha Cooper, offering a glimpse into her world and the impact she had on the scene.
The Q&A session with Eneri and Zane Meyer, the founder of Chop ’em Down Films, was a highlight of the festival for me. It provided an invaluable opportunity for the local community to engage in a thoughtful dialogue with Eneri, delving into her contested piece. During this exchange, attendees gained a deeper understanding of Pixação—what it represents, and why it intentionally defies conventional notions of aesthetic beauty. I hope they have reconsidered their desire to remove Eneri’s piece by now, although I suspect that, aside from aesthetic concerns, some Dutch people may be hesitant to confront the painful realities of their country’s colonial history.
Overall, the All Caps comprehensive program was a conscious effort by organizers to engage with the community and open the experience of street art to adults and children. It reaffirmed the festival’s resolute mission: the street belongs to everybody and street art is for everyone to enjoy. The “ALL” in the festival’s name isn’t just symbolic; it’s a testament to the genuine commitment to inclusion and accessibility.