Updated: Aug 9, 2019
Douglas Viana: Researcher from the Instituto Maria e João Aleixo, partner in the GlobalGRACE Project (WP3)
During the process of preparing for the GlobalGRACE project’s Partnership and Capability Event (PCE), which was held in Rio de Janeiro in May 2019, our team thought a lot about what it would be like to receive such a diverse range of people and cultures in the territory of Maré, a complex of favela communities in the north of Rio. We had to consider that in Maré we have a unique and particular territorial configuration which is new to our visitors. I, as a resident of the favela and and active member of the Brazilian team in GlobalGRACE, had much to think about. After all, it is not every day I get to walk in the streets of the favela where I was born and talk to visiters from four other continents about its potential, and to be able to recount the history of these streets that bear the names of those who once contributed to the development of the favela, but who are no longer with us, or simply to help the newcomers see through the eyes of those who live here how beautiful and powerful this place is, full of life and diversity.
An example of the diversity encountered within this territory occurred when members of the team walked through Maré, and I proudly shared some positive and affective moments. For example, the photo below was taken in the shop called ‘Armarinho do Posto’, which is only a few metres from the house where I was raised and has been in operation for over 30 years. It is also significant to the GlobalGRACE project, as the owners of this establishment are the patrons of the Instituto Maria and João Aleixo, the Global GRACE partner organization that I work for.
As a resident, it is impossible to speak of this place without giving due importance to the people who pass through here because, after all, all those who pass by leave a residue of themselves which contributes to impelling paradigm shifts for those of us who are residents of Maré. For example, in the photos below you can see a little of the workshops that we held in the Bela Maré art gallery in Maré, where we had moments of communion and exchanges of knowledge and feelings, moments so rich and interesting that even linguistic differences did not lessen them.
In one of the workshops we worked with the Mexican artist Librehem, who guided us through a process of abstractly covering canvases with paint in different colours, so that we could express artistically the experiences and characteristics pertinent to each group. We in the Brazilian team chose to use vivid and vibrant colours, as a means to reference the diversity of our group. At the end Librehem intervened in each of the six canvases of each work group and made a drawing that represented in some way the collective present there. In ours he chose to paint my portrait in order to portray this Maré complex of favelas which so beautiful and different.
To live in Maré is to understand that you are in eternal connection with the world, because here we are surrounded on all four sides by major highways, the Galeão International Airport and the waters of Guanabara Bay. It is a territory larger than 80% of Brazilian municipalities, with an approximate area of 426 thousand square meters and a population of approximately 140,000 inhabitants. Viewed through such numbers it is easy to be intimidated and think that it must be crazy to live in this place, and in fact it is a madness, but a positive madness that is a pleasure to share with those who come to visit us.
Being able to make this place my object of work helps me make sense of life as a resident of Maré, because as I said above, all who pass through leave a little of themselves. This residue allows us to grow and multiply through the good experiences left behind, and what is learned and shared. In order to ensure that this wheel of experiences never stops turning and remains in perpetual motion we must recognize ourselves as peripheral, whether it is on the periphery of South Africa or Bangladesh. After all, being peripheral goes far beyond being born in a certain place, but exists rather in understanding the connection that exists between the inhabitants of peripheral spaces. Through this connection we can overcome the view from privileged places in society which are accustomed to seeing places like favelas through a paradigm of absence, failing to take into account the potential and power of the peripheries and their inhabitants.
Receiving my colleagues and friends from Global GRACE in the city of Rio de Janeiro is something wonderful, but does not compare to showing them the potential and power of the residents of my country, Maré.