Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sao Paulo. Periphery. Diadema

I tagged along with Tatiana as she visited an NGO working in the periphery in a place called Diadema. It had become a separate urban municipality right outside Sao Paulo and much of the housing stock was informal. We were visiting an NGO called Rede Cultural do Beija Flor. ( The place was flowing with creative energy, unlike almost anywhere I had seen. Between music, dance, art, and leadership development, this place had been taking a lot of kids off the streets and offering alternatives for a number of the other kids in the areas growing up in favelas. The results were extraordinary. They had built, designed and painted an entire complex. Youth could come there and spend all day. There were art and painting classes. Graffiti and other street artists would come and give work shops. All kinds of music was explored there, even the youngest kids were playing beautiful things. But some of the more extraordinary work seemed to be coming out of the high schoolers. They had a couple of projects going on. Many of them were heavily involved in breakdancing. With a deep and obvious connection to capoeira, many of these kids understand it in a different way, both physically, spiritually, and mentally. About a month before I had been there, they hosted one of the largest break dancing competitions in Sao Paulo. The scene was amazing. Check out the incredible moves. The youth produced this video:

They were also working on multiple projects documenting and interviewing part of a community that had been living on a trash dump. You can check out some of their work here:
We went and visited a community these youth were working in. Some of the housing there was the worst I had seen. But the most extraordinary thing was the transition of the formal to the informal. In this case, it was represented by power lines. Along the road, there was a point where the municipal power line ended. And at point were about 100 lines attached to it with clamps, extending in a tangle all the way down the road, propped up by sticks and poles.
There are two words that have been on my mind much during my travels but resurfaced during this visit: CAPACITY and AGENCY. It was clear that finding unique and innovative ways to tap into people’s creativity is quite extraordinary. And while much of my focus has been on housing and buildings and how they can help increase capacity and agency, so much of the development of communities and people happens outside the realm of the built environment. Yet, it can still be enhanced by the built environment, and this was one place where that was happening.
With that said, I want to make two points. Favelas can be extremely developed and sophisticated neighborhoods with many opportunities for people. This is not the norm, but it is certainly possible. And I am not expressing my amazement with the work that was being produced here because these are kids from the favela. Well, maybe a bit, but no matter who is doing that kind of artistic exploration at that age, I find it extraordinary, regardless of class or socioeconomic background.

1 comment:

CARF Brazil said...

Thanks for your positive impressions after visiting my NGO some years ago. I don't always get the chance to meet people passing by so it's always nice to stumble over this kind of sharing about our project in Diadema - São Paulo. I shall share it on Facebook.
Gregory J. Smith
Social Entrepreneur & Founder
Children At Risk Foundation - CARF