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Imaginary Struggles

Imaginary Struggles

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in all posts, Brazil, ESPOCC | 0 comments

I started writing this post a few weeks ago. Since then the bubbling discontent we witnessed across Brazil when we were there in January and February in relation to a number of social and political issues including the huge costs of the upcoming World Cup has spilled out into the streets.

People across the social spectrum have got fed up with the way the World Cup costs have spiralled up, sucked public money into private coffers and at the same time, across the country, displaced people and destroyed parks and other common spaces for the building of new facilities. In some cases like the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, this historical stadium will be operated by a private company in the first time in its history.

People have also got fed up with the rising cost of living in the country (in part a consequence of the Games), with the rise in public transport costs, but most of all they are fed up with corruption, with the failure of the rising economic growth to tackle the problems in the health and education system in the country.

Brazil has not seen such mass protests in twenty years and it looks like the government is going to have to listen. The post I write here, is about the struggle of media spaces and the images and stories which are produced about, and now increasingly from, marginalised places like favela communities. The post relates to the present struggles in Brazil in as much as the media continues to be a place of contest where a battle over stories and imaginations is also waged.

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Mural outside the Popular School of Critical Communication (ESPOCC) in the Observatório das Favelas, in the Maré community of Rio de Janeiro, photo by Udi

Imaginary: Existing only in the imagination () Origin from Latin imago which in psychoanalysis is an unconscious, idealised mental image of someone, say a parent, that influences a persons behaviour.


Favela: a group of dwellings with high density occupation, the construction of which is carried out in a disorderly fashion with inadequate material, without zoning, without public services, and on land which is illegally being used without the consent of the owner

(Official Bulletin of the Brazilian Secretariat of Social Services quoted in Perlman The Myth of Marginality 1979:13).


Imaginary of Marginality: An imaginary about historically marginalized populations, held by dominant social groups (and sometimes internalized by the marginalized themselves) often containing prejudiced representations, images, stories, sometimes connected to stereotypes around race, poverty and gender. These negative representations tend to circulate in the dominant mass media and in certain forms of research and educational systems. Un-confronted, these representations come to be widespread amongst the population and perceived as the main narrative, the norm.


We often come to see and know places and people we do not personally encounter through stories and images that others create about them. These stories most commonly come to us through the media – through television, the news, the internet, etc. At the scale of a city, the media helps to virtually weave an imaginary web linking separated places and lives. We are often not very mindful of this web – this matrix of images and stories, feelings and attitudes, but also a landscape we walk through in our day-to-day lives that provides a sense of meaning to us and the world around us.

The nature of this imaginary web is shaped by those who weave it. Those weavers, often the most privileged sectors that dominate and own the media, have little experience or willingness to convey the stories and perspectives of the less powerful in those communities, especially through their own voice, their own point of view and experienced reality. Here in Rio de Janeiro, places and communities like favelas for instances.


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Globo logo, Brazil’s largest media network, still from TV

The democratization of the media has been an important area of mobilization amongst civil society and social movements in Brazil for several decades. Especially since the end of the dictatorship (in 1984) gaining access to the institutions of mass communication has also come to be seen as an important right to acquire, that is intrinsically linked to the identity and practice of being a citizen in Brazil. This right-to-acquire has come from the growing recognition of the media as a force that shapes society and public opinion and, as such, something that ought to be more equitably distributed and controlled. The theme of media and citizenship, or what has been referred to as ‘visual inclusion’, has also gained importance in Brazil’s public sphere over the last two decades.

Visual inclusion here means the inclusion of a more diverse and representative presence of Brazilians and their stories across the national media. Indigenous people, Afro-descendants or else regional cultures are infrequently or else stereotypically depicted in the media which is dominated by the Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo axis (and a particular upper middle class culture and perspective from these cities).

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Posters of different film festivals organized by the Observatório das Favelas, ESPOCC, Maré community of Rio de Janeiro, photo by Udi

Visual inclusion also involves the more equitable distribution of the means of image production amongst the population. Though community radio has been around for much longer in favela communities, what we now see in Brazil is the intensification of alternative media production centers and dissemination networks, in particular through new forms of technology such as social media, digital video and photography and the Internet. Such initiatives are often aligned with grass-roots and community organizations across a number of historically marginalized groups and communities.

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An example of this kind of work is a project I came across in Rio de Janeiro around 2006, the Observatório das Favelas based in one of the citys biggest favela Complexo da Maré is large conglomeration of 16 different communities and has a population of around 140,000. The Observatioro das Favelas is a large community-NGO responsible for a number of different projects inside favela communities focusing on research, policy development and capacity building.

Observatório das Favelas and others like it who, to varying degrees in scale and success operate in different favelas, see a major part of their role as involving the formation of technically competent and politically aware individuals and groups inside low-income communities. A key element in many of such initiatives is what is often referred to asCritical Communication, involving the telling of stories and conveying the perspectives of those who live in these communities, especially from members of these communities themselves. Essentially – their own narratives, stories, voice.

A pioneering project of the Observatório das Favelas is the Escola Popular de Comunicação Crítica ESPOCC (Popular School of Critical Communication) which had its first class of forty-two students in 2005 and is now in its 8th year. This project is a one-year vocational course with the aim of training young people mainly from Rios favelas and peripheries, but now also from the middle classes, to become critical communicators, to learn how to engage with and challenge the imaginary of marginality prevalent in the city.

For example, favela communities are often depicted in the mass media as violent spaces, lacking in all the things the other parts of the city have – education, work, culture, organisation, safety, and so on. Such representations mean that these places, and those who live there, bare the stigma associated with these images and stories. They have an identity imposed on them emanating from these images and stories, which have no part in creating themselves. Residents of favela communities, which as we saw in the previous post on the Museo da Maré have in some cases been here for three generations, live under and cultivate their identities under these adverse conditions, and not only this but they are also discriminated in day to day relation to others across the city and to the state.

You could say that the young people in ESPOCC learn to read the web, the matrix, the media landscape in an acute way so as to subvert it and create their own narratives and media spaces. They learn to weave different imaginaries across the city, contributing to the transformation of the imaginary of marginality into more inclusive imaginaries. I will write more about this in the next post.

We witnessed an example of the prejudiced media landscape in the city and how people have been trying to combat this during our time in Rio. Though not directly involving ESPOCC, I point to these events here as they occurred whilst we were in Rio and clearly show the kind of mass media logic that places like ESPOCC are engaging with.

The city has been busily preparing for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 building many new sporting facilities. For the World Cup the city has been converting the 60 year old Maracanã Stadium (in its time the biggest stadium in the world with a capacity of 100,000) to the international criteria of FIFA demolishing some surrounding structures and buildings for new parking facilities. One of the buildings to be destroyed was the former Indian Museum which has been unused as a museum since the 1980s but which has been occupied by a group of indigenous families since 2006 in protest of plans to demolish this historically significant building. After a number of standoffs with the police Rede Globo, the dominant media conglomerate in the country, did a news piece to discredit the indigenous protesters by saying that they had been selling drugs at the premises. Armed with their own video cameras indigenous filmmakers filmed the reporter and confronted her with the lies being told about them. The clip went viral on the Internet and Globo was forced to retract their story.

Mural outside the Popular School of Critical Communication (ESPOCC) in the Observatório das Favelas, in the Maré community of Rio de Janeiro, photo by Udi

As Salvador Passos, analysing the incident put it:

The objective of this type of comment was to disqualify the families that were there. When running such news-story without due verification, the channel does a disservice to democracy. The news item provides the perfect alibi for a violent intervention and removal of the indigenous families. Suddenly, there is no more talk of real estate speculation and profits, but rather of drug trafficking and vandalism on the part of the natives, all based on images that prove nothing. [my translation from http://www.advivo.com.br/blog/luisnassif/acusacoes-da-globonews-sobre-as-tribos-do-museu-do-indio?page=1]

The story encapsulates the overlap of media interests and the imaginary they attempt to weave with the corporate logic and profit motive that pervades these mega sporting events with full endorsement of the state. Both attempt to transform the city without much concern for those whose stories and lives have no place in their imagination. That the ‘natives’ now have a camera and access to alternative media networks, like those associated with ESPOCC, means that such dominant interests cannot weave their own imaginary of the city unchallenged.

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Still from video posted online showing the confrontation between indigenous people occupying the Museo do Índio and a Rede Globo reporter

To see clips of the story around Indigenous occupation of the museum and Globo and its response see:


For a friends’ (Nayana Fernandez) short film on the story see:


For an excellent article on the recent protests in Brasil written by the same friend see:



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Creating in the GIft Economy

Creating in the GIft Economy

Posted by on Jun 14, 2013 in all posts, on the road | 0 comments

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Our journey has met, experienced and reflected on different forms of de-institutionalisation and de-professionalism, with other ways of practicing teaching and learning. Now we are experimenting with how this might apply to obtaining resources, through a gift economy, for learning, writing and filmmaking and communicating. We are launching a crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo to raise funds to finish the documentary we have been making along our journey. We have also added some perks such as high resolution downloads of the film and extra features when we have finished the documentary, photographic prints from a selection of our best photos in this journey and a silk screen print made by the team.

We passionately believe in the importance of this project and up to this point, have funded ourselves. However, to complete the documentary we need a further $25,000 – for remaining travel expenses and basic living expenses during editing for our team.

We have 6 months left of our journey and will visit more inspiring initiatives and people in India, Europe and the US. To do this we need to cover costs related to travel and expenses. Once we have completed shooting, we will need at least 5 months to edit over 100 hours of material (spoken in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Hindi). In this period we will be working with another editor, a post-production designer, a sound mixer, composer and a web designer. We will also be working with a team of transcribers and translators in the initial languages stated above.

All of this requires funding to at least cover travel and basic living expenses of the team which we have budgeted at $25,000. All these people, including ourselves, are gifting their time (in other words, not receiving a salary) as we all believe in the purpose of the project. Our intention is to encourage accessible and critical debate on education around the world and open up imaginative possibilities of what learning can be. Any funds contributed will be supporting us in this process.

We are also taking this crowdfunding experience as another aspect of the journey, of how to engage with resources and money in a more creative way. We hope we reach our target of raising $25,000 in 40 days, which we have budgeted is what we and the whole team would need to finish the documentary by next May and make available for free online on a new specially created website. But whatever happens we have been learning a lot in the process! I am sure we will have much more to write about regarding this.

Distribution of the film

The film Enlivened Learning will be distributed (freely or by donation) online through a project website and we also plan to screen the film across a number of international locations and festivals. We will translate the film into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi and other languages, depending on request. Our intention is to encourage accessible and critical debate on education around the world and open up imaginative possibilities of what learning can be. Any funds we gain through indiegogo will be supporting us and the rest of the team in this process.

How else you can help

We are very keen to have people joining this inter-cultural conversation on what kind of education we, our communities and our planet needs. We understand if financial contribution is not possible at this time. You can help us to get the message out about this film and check out our website and get in touch with us if you want to help out in any way. We are always happy to meet more kindred and creative folk. We’d love to hear from you!

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Enlivening the Learning, Enlivening Everything! Part 1

Enlivening the Learning, Enlivening Everything! Part 1

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in all posts, Argentina, Brazil | 0 comments

I met Kelly while I was doing an MA in Education at the University of Bath, UK. She was teaching “Education and International Development” and I decided to take the course. After the academic year, we met once, for lunch, and we got along really well. Suddenly, on January 3rd of this year I was landing in Rio de Janeiro airport to join her and Udi for one month (until February 5th) visiting different initiatives in Brazil.

So, after a whole year of hard work, why did I decide to spend my holidays time with a former lecturer and her husband?

In August 2011 after having spent a wonderful year in Bath, UK, I was back in Argentina. Looking back, I could say that there were three experiences that really impacted me while I was back in Buenos Aires, which made me reflect about how I was feeling and which propelled me to go to Brazil. I’ve shared these stories with a few people, but I’d like to share them here. I guess there are many who may have gone through similar experiences:

  1. One day, while I was on Facebook, somebody who was doing a Masters degree in the U.S. posted a picture of the view of the moon from her dorm window. As soon as I saw it I started remembering how, when I was in Bath, I used to take pictures like that one: pictures of flowers, of the squirrels, of the light at a certain time of day hitting the leaves of trees, of the hills, of the old buildings, of the crows on the chimneys, of the canals, of the rainbows and, also, of the moon. I felt like I was in a permanent state of awe. Why didn’t I take these kinds of pictures anymore? Unlike the squirrels, and the crows, and the flowers and the canals, the moon, from my Buenos Aires bedroom window, was the same moon I saw in Bath. However, I did not find it enchanting here.  I realized that the problem was not in what surrounded me, but that there was something in me that did not let me appreciate things. I wanted to feel stimulated again. I wanted to look at the moon in awe again!

    A picture I took of Bath Abbey and the full moon.

    A picture I took of Bath Abbey and the full moon.

  2. In March 2012 I started working regularly again. As I live in the suburbs I had to take the train everyday to go to work. This meant waiting for the train for around 40 minutes, because there was no fixed schedule anymore and many trains were not working.  I also had to ride on the train for around one hour, squeezed between other passengers, facing daily cancellations of the service. The train crash which had taken place in February of that year and consequently killed 52 people was on my mind all the time. So, after a few days of this, I started complaining. And, the most common answer I got was: “Oh, it is because you have just arrived from England. This is not England, you know. Don’t worry, it is only until you get adapted.” “Get adapted to what?”, I thought. I never want to get adapted to travelling like this. No one should get adapted to regular fires on the train, and trains going out of the rails, crashing and even killing people. I wondered how people could say that. I was very disappointed with the majority, who accepted this and just sighed, lowered their heads and travelled in these conditions. So I started travelling on the train with a sign that said: “This reality is created by all of us” and I joined a group, “Usuarios Autoconvocados por los Trenes”, which demanded the State the urgent repair of the trains and railways with the decision that I would never adapt. Participating in this group became for me a way to cope with and to canalize some of my feelings in Buenos Aires.
Travelling on the train in Buenos Aires. Picture taken by a passenger. Contribution to the train group; evidence presented to the State.

Travelling on the train in Buenos Aires. Picture taken by a passenger. Contribution to the train group; evidence presented to the State.

Passengers having to walk on the rails after a train stopped. Picture taken by a passenger. Contribution to the train group, evidence presented to the State.

Passengers having to walk on the rails after a train stopped. Picture taken by a passenger. Contribution to the train group, evidence presented to the State.

After the tragic accident in February, in August the train that I take everyday to work went off the rails. Picture taken by Rodrigo Viera. This picture was shown in all the media.

After the tragic accident in February, in August the train that I take everyday to work went off the rails. Picture taken by Rodrigo Viera. This picture was shown in all the media.

3. One evening, when I was returning home on the train, after work, I witnessed a police persecution: a man appeared suddenly running and all of a sudden a policeman jumped on top of him, throwing him abruptly to the floor. The apparent criminal started pleading and crying, asking the policeman not to hit him, and reminding him he had a family. It was a very ugly situation, everybody looked worried and uncomfortable. Then the train stopped at one of the stations, the policeman removed the “criminal” from the train, and the train continued its way. I was observing the other passengers. Some were talking with one another, some of their faces showed fear, others sadness: the event seemed to have moved them. However, after 5 minutes, their faces had gone back to normalcy, plain again, and after some time, everybody looked as if nothing had happened. There I remembered how I had been once, a long time ago, very impressed and moved the first time I had seen a person looking for food in the trash. Now I saw these people daily, and they had become part of the city. I wandered if there would come a time soon when we would get used to police persecutions on the train. I thought I wanted to refuse to let this happen to me. I thought about how I, and this society, was starting to lose touch with the important things, how we were losing the capacity to be moved by others suffering, how we try not to feel and to look the other way. How we lose contact, how we separate from one another, how the political ideas divide us, and we lose touch, and we do not seek to understand the other, and how the distance grows, and dehumanization deepens. Because I had also thought on that train, what is it to be human if it’s not the capacity to be moved in empathy for the other? I thought about all this on the train, I wanted to cry, and I told myself that I should never forget what I had thought AND FELT.

These 3 experiences were to me like alerts and paved the way for me to take the decision to join Enlivened Learning. Like in the Pink Floyd song, I had become numb, but in my case, it had not been comfortably.

When Kelly and I started talking again at the end of 2012 and she offered me to participate in the project, I did not hesitate to meet them.  I saw this trip as an opportunity to be faced with new things, to meet new people, to wake up from the numbness and to re-connect.

On top of that, the proposal was so interesting; what they were doing was so admirable and intriguing for me. Since I was in high school I wandered about what learning really was, and asked myself if it could be something different from what I was experiencing. Then, in University, I enjoyed the subjects and lessons about alternative ways of education and then I tried to implement some of these things in my jobs. For my masters’ dissertation I had chosen to design a school which differed from the traditional system: from its purposes and curriculum to the maps of the building. Learning about different initiatives who had different views of education was my thing.

On top of this, they were learning about the education and ways of understanding the world from indigenous communities and social movements. I knew very little about this, so I was even more interested. Ironically, coming from a Latin American country, I had become more interested and learned more about indigenous education during Kelly’s unit in Bath, in the UK, on the other side of the world. This new knowledge had impacted me a lot and I wanted to learn more.

So, on January 3rd 2013, after having spent 6 days with a friend in another part of Brazil, I joined Kelly and Udi in Rio to start sharing their learning adventure. I was suddenly living and most of the time sharing a room, with a former lecturer and her husband, whom I had only met once before in a class.

I started learning a lot during that month, and at very different levels. I understood the importance of the project, which was not only learning about education alternatives anymore, it was experiencing another form of learning every day. Kelly and Udi were amazing, never treated me as a traditional student or research assistant and now I can say I consider them very good friends. Also, after watching some of the interviews and talking with them, I learnt how many of these communities considered the creation, construction and experiencing of their initiatives as a way of healing from past experiences, mostly related to colonization. I could really understand them, because, in my case, Enlivened Learning had become a way of healing myself from the despair I was feeling back home, and of growing in many different aspects.

I hope to be able to share these learnings and experiences in future posts. This post has a “Part 2” which will develop my most significant learnings. Now I have been part of this project for many months. The way I see the project now is very different and much deeper than how I saw it then, and although I have not been travelling with Kelly and Udi since February, I feel that Enlivened Learning has become a very important part of myself. I am writing this when I have only a couple of weeks left to join them in India and I could not be more excited.

“Mafalda” is a very famous Argentiean cartoon, which has portrayed the reality of the country throughout the years. Its main character is the girl, Mafalda. In this case, she is saying: “We are screwed guys! If we don’t hurry up to change the world, then it will be the world the one that changes us.”

“Mafalda” is a very famous Argentiean cartoon, which has portrayed the reality of the country throughout the years. Its main character is the girl, Mafalda. In this case, she is saying: “We are screwed guys! If we don’t hurry up to change the world, then it will be the world the one that changes us.”

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Museo da Maré

Museo da Maré

Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in all posts, Brazil | 0 comments

As I have written about elsewhere (post on museums), museums have been an important site of learning for us on this journey. In these places different indigenous communities were reclaiming and representing their history and narratives through the form and institution of the museum. At the same time these various communities, including the people responsible for the Biblioteca da Floresta in Acre, where enlivening the museum by making it a place of learning and experience where the stories of those represented are felt in continuity with the present of these communities.

So I was particularly excited to go an visit a pioneering museum in Rio’s largest favela, or shanty town community, the Complexo da Maré. This large conglomeration of 16 different communities has a population of around 140,000 and a history that dates back to the 1940s. But the oldest favelas in the city emerged several decades earlier, see below.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

Before going to the Museo da Maré, Kelly, Marina, Patrick (my Brazilian cousin and sometime co-traveller) went to visit an exhibition in one of the city’s more traditional and oldest museums, the Museo da Repúplica, housed in the former presidential palace in Catete. This exhibition helped us understand more the historical origins of favela communities and the name favela itself. The exhibition was on the legendary spiritual and revolutionary leader, Antônio Conselheiro, now a national folk hero, who led a community of tens of thousands in the impoverished and draught-stricken northeast of the country at the end of the nineteenth century. I will not expand on this important episode of Brazilian history, the Canudos War, which pitted a flourishing religious cooperative community made up of the rural landless and a number of former slaves (slavery officially only ending in Brazil in 1888, one of the last countries in the Americas) against the newly proclaimed Republic. The War of Canudos was the military campaign which lasted between 1896-1897 and mobilised around five thousand government soldiers who ultimately prevailed over the Conselheristas (followers of Antônio Conselheiro) killing between ten and twenty thousand of them.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da República, photo by Udi

Favela is the name of a spiky shrub or small tree that grows in the Sertão or semi-arid lands of the Northeast Brazil in the region where Canudos is found, it is also the name of a hill there. When the battle was won the conscripted soldiers returned to Rio, then the capital, and waited for their promised reward of housing from the government, camping on the Morro da Providência by the port region of the city. The government never fulfilled its promise and the soldiers and their families set up home here, renaming their place Morro da Favela a kind of ironic reminder to the government of the place they had fought in. With this the first favela was born.


Rio de Janeiro, Museo da República, Photo by Flávio Barros, 1897

So at the origins of favela we have a series of ingredients; the end of slavery and the entry of former slaves (without compensation, resources or adequate training) into the economy, the violent destruction of a self-sustaining and organising community that challenged the newly formed Republican state, the failed promise of housing in the city for returning soldiers and an influx of people from the impoverished countryside to the city.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da República, photo by Kelly

From one museums and origin story to another. Arriving in the Museo da Maré we are greeted by Luis one of its founders who generously and enthusiastically shows us around. The museum is situated in a large warehouse a couple of blocks down from the Avenida Brasil, the large highway that bisects Maré. The museum, the first of its kind, has been many years in the making, since 1989, initiating its life in the research of the TV Maré, a community station who was compiling oral histories for a programme about the history of Maré. Noting that the community was being transformed by government action and that many elderly residents were passing away and their stories forgotten the programme makers started compiling more systematically the oral histories, photographs and historical documents from residents. In 1997 some of these local researchers founded CEASM, Centro de Estudos e Ações Solidárias da Maré, the Center for Study and Solidarity Action of Maré, a local grass roots community development organisation, more formally institutionalising this memory archive. CEASM then founded the Museo da Maré in 2006 with support of the then ministry of culture’s progressive programme of supporting local cultural initiatives or Pontos de Cultura.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

In the Museum gathered stories, photos and documents of the residents from Maré have a ‘permanent’ display in the warehouse. I say ‘permanent’ both because the museum was undergoing a transformation when we visited and the layout was going to be updated, but also as Luis told us, because what is important here are the stories about this community and the memories people have rather than any of the objects themselves.

As the website description and aim of the museum states, and as Luis also narrated to us:

The intention of the Museo da Maré is to break with the tradition that the experiences to be remembered and historical places to be memorialised are those elected by the official, “winning”, version of history and because of that a version that limits the representations of history and memory of large portions of the population. Therefore, the Museo da Maré, as a pioneering initiative in the city, proposes to extend the concept of museum, so this is not restricted to the more intellectual social groups and the cultural spaces still inaccessible to the general population. The favela is a place of memory and therefore nothing is more meaningful than doing a museographic reading from such perception. [my translation from the website].

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

The objects in the museum tell the story of the history of Maré through old photos, documents and a re-constructed wooden house on stilts which we walk through and see the various objects people would have made use of in the 1960s. Walking through the different sections of the museum we are taken through different significant historical moments of the community; the time of water when the houses were built on wooded stilts over the regularly flooded margins of the Guanabara Bay; the building and day to day life of family homes; the religious life of the community; the games children play(ed); and the contemporary problems of drug gangs and violence.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

The museum has been visited by many on outside Maré and the possibility of encounter that this space offers has been significant. With that said, as Luis put it and the Museo website reaffirms the key audience for the museum are residents themselves with numerous events, workshops, talks, guided visits and so on organised by the museum for the community.

The projects developed by the program [at the museum] are designed to encourage the creation of channels that strengthen community bonds among residents, driven mainly by historical and cultural identity. [my translation from museum website].

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

We are taken into the wooden house on stilts that dominates the museum by our guides Luis and Lourenço and a flood of memories and emotions is unleashed with stories about living in this spaces, having to wade through water to get to work, of kids happily playing outside on the mud, of the religious life of the community, a syncretism of Christianity, Camdomble, Ubanda. A curious metal object sitting on the old gas stove also elicited memories. This was a metal comb that was heated on the stove, which most Afro-descendent women used in this period to straighten out their hair. The comb embodies and reminds us of dominant cultural norms and values of beauty and race at a time before Black Pride had emerged in Brazil.

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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, metal combe, photo by Kelly

These values and norms, and further forms of prejudice and discrimination continue to affect Afro-descendants in Brazil today. Further prejudice and discrimination is associated with the favela itself (see the next post on this) and those who live there. A space often referred to through all that it lacks (education, sanitation, work, culture) or through what it has in excess (violence, drugs), what gets left out are the living trajectories of these communities, their capacity to be creative in adverse urban environments and build communities with their own forms of organisation, social and cultural life. A place like Museo da Maré is a celebration of these qualities and one which countless other communities across Brazil have now replicated.
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Rio de Janeiro, Museo da Maré, photo by Kelly

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