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In Naples, artists use irony to tackle festering trash crisis

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Newly elected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he will hold his first cabinet in Naples and spend three days a week in the city until the crisis ends. But Raffo, a renowned graffiti artist in the city, doesn't believe it will last and thinks these are simply electoral promises.

He is based in a degraded suburb east of Naples, Ponticelli, one of the many outskirts where the Camorra, the local mafia, is strong.

"Things are different here [in the outskirts of Naples]; the rubbish never goes away from our streets," he says.

He recently started working on large paintings with bright colors that satirize famous paintings: a version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" where the man stands amid dozens of black garbage bags, and a "Mona Lisa" who holds bags of different colors, promoting recycling. His latest painting, inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night," will have rubbish bags in the foreground on the left instead of the characteristic cypress tree.

"Images can tell much more than words," says Raffo. "Changing these paintings that have made the history of art is a way of showing politicians how badly things are going here in Naples."

Villaricca is another difficult town north of Naples. That's where percussion band BidonVillarik comes from and rehearses. The members play instruments made from abandoned mattresses, tires, pieces of furniture, bottles, cans, and whatever else is available in their area. Their sound is simple and partly traditional, their sometimes-rude lyrics show frustration toward a political leadership that hasn't done much to clear the streets.

"We use the poorest and most available instruments of the moment: garbage," says Lello Cardone, BidonVillarik's founder. "We want to bring forward solutions, such as the idea of recycling."

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