After one of the worst, most tense weeks in recent years, Rio de Janeiro breathed a sigh of relief when police and troops took over the huge Complexo do Alemão favela complex without a confrontation on Sunday morning. What was needed was a respite from the stress and media overload of police, tanks, dumb reporters in flak jackets and images of burning vehicles.
So I headed down with MC and radio producer Sistah to the Meeting of Favelas Brazil’s number one favela graffiti jam that unites writers, artists, friends and rappers from across the city and even the country.
Meeting of Favelas is in its 5th edition and always takes place in Vila Operária in Caxias in the Baixada Fluminense district. The community was full of artists painting along the steep streets and in a football court. All an artist has to do is get permission from the house owner and they can paint.
As ever the favela showed that it has a form of lifestyle that has much to offer. Music and entertainment was provided courtesy of the DJs and presenters of the Batalha do Real, Rio’s traditional and best MC battle event. Rio smiles again! Thank you to organiser Kajaman and his team and of course the people and house owners of Vila Operária who gave over their houses for this public art event!!
Early evening and people are making their way home after work in Nova Olinda, a small hilltop town in the semi-arid sertão of Northeast Brazil. Nova Olinda lies in the Chapada do Araripe, a green oasis in vast plains of dry scrub in a region famed for its myths, religion, natural beauty and fossils. Out of nowhere, loudspeakers high on a radio mast above an old town house begin to broadcast the eerie spaghetti twangs of Ennio Morricone. What’s going on?
Inside the restored house, kids in red trousers and white shorts play on swings in a courtyard. Older adolescents in the same uniforms walk between rooms that hold a DVD library, a book library, a graphic novel library, a radio station, a music studio, a TV production suite and a theatre. At the entrance to the house is a museum containing traditional northeastern and ancient indigenous artefacts.
Ideo (in photo below) the museum manager, is just 13!
The house is part of a project called the Fundação Casa Grande – Memorial do Homem Kariri a cultural institute staffed and organised by children and young people. It was set up in 1992, when Alemberg, a musician and researcher, began to restore the house (that belonged to his grandfather) in order to store a collection of archaeological pieces. Alemberg’s idea was to show people that Brazilian history dated back further than just the Portuguese. As he set about work on the house with his wife, curious children began to participate in the process.
So begins what Alemberg, an Ashoka fellow and Avina leader, calls “a unique experience: a foundation, a museum, and a cultural centre all directed by children”. I call it a brilliant example of Brazilian creativity and sparkle. In addition to this the foundation has set up a cooperative of popular hostels managed by the kids’ parents. For fifty Reais (about 18 pounds) guests can rent rooms in their houses where they will receive full board with three meals a day. I spent several days here hanging out, learning about the foundation and visiting the region.