Favela Painting: Brushing Up Rio's Slums For World Cup
Rio’s slums, known as favelas, get a colorful look thanks to an ambitious project (Photo: AP)
On Sunday, rabid fans filled Rio’s de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium for Argentina’s World Cup clash against Bosnia-Herzegovina. The match was also a showcase for the $500 million, three-year-long renovation of Brazil’s legendary Temple of Football.
In the runup to the tournament, however, the world watched as anger over corruption in general and the billions of dollars sunk into Brazil’s World Cup venues erupted into strikes and demonstrations. The national discontent has also put a media spotlight on conditions in the favelas, Rio’s legendary slums. Which reminded me of Santa Marta.
Rising steeply uphill near several posh districts, Santa Marta is one of the Marvelous City’s more accessible favelas, one of the first to get cable car service and a local “pacification” squad to ensure safety. On the way in, I passed bare brick and concrete facades of solid but haphazard houses whose electric and phone wires dangled willy-nilly over the street. But suddenly, at the Praça Cantão, a small square at the community’s base, a joyous carnival of lime, orange, pink and other candy colors exploded over a few dozen houses.
The colorful paintings in Rio’s Santa Marta favela (Photo: Nathan Bishop/Flickr)
I had come upon the work of Favela Painting, a project started almost a decade ago by two Dutch designers, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, who go by the moniker Haas&Hahn. In Santa Marta, the duo had trained twenty-five local Carioca (as Rio dwellers are called) kids to paint the houses in what Urhahn calls “a locally based, bottom up, communal approach.” Indeed some youths have used the training to become painters themselves, and having the experience on their resume is a plus in a place where job competition is tight.
A favela resident shows his artistic side (Photo: AP)