Using Local Art to Inspire Local Art
A Beleza do Subúrbio is a project dedicated to working with marginalized youth through a series of photography workshops. These workshops will give students an opportunity to get deeply into the web of their community network, tease out what beauty means to them and discover where it hides in the place they call home. This project was inspired by the Acervo da Laje, a gallery space that was created in the home of Professor José Eduardo Ferreira Santos (Dinho), a local in the community who has dedicated his life to researching and improving the issue of adolescent violence in his neighborhood. This gallery contains art work from across the state of Bahia, and serves as a site for adolescents in the community to explore local art and culture, as well as a safe place to discuss the issues within the community—and those that simply come with being a teenager (anywhere in the world).
The idea is to use local art, to inspire local art. My role is simply to give students an opportunity to get out and look at their home from a new perspective. Twelve weeks of workshops will culminate in a walking tour led by a cortejo, or traditional Brazilian marching band (think carnaval, drums, lots of singing and dancing) and the students involved in the program. Students will present their photo projects at the site at which photos were taken. Guests will be given a walking tour of the community, stopping at each site, and hearing the stories and the histories of the different photos and locations visited.
The idea is not to take the photos away from the community, but to bring the audience to the site and enable the viewer to witness the inspiration behind the process first hand. This project emphasizes and honors the importance of place. It is the process of acknowledging the good in the middle of the confusion, and bringing locals back to their roots; rather than taking students away from their home, we want to guide them deeply into it.
How I got Here
Although I am originally from Porto Alegre, the capital of the southernmost state of Brazil, I have spent the last 3 years working closely with Bahia. I have worked at NGOs in fisherman villages, spent time in quilombos in Chapada Diamantina, explored rural and urban community health clinics, done research on child development in spiritual houses, and finally collaborated closely with Dinho, putting together this here project. Through combining Dinho's familiarity and experience in the neighborhood, with my experience working with adolescents and photography, we have come up with this project as a way to promote creativity, community building, and healthy development for the adolescents living in Subúrbio Ferroviário.
Subúrbio Ferroviário is located on the outskirts of the city of Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil. It is recognized to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Salvador. Yet, if you scratch the surface of the history of this complex and fascinating place, you quickly come to find that violence is just a defensive layer, one that masks all of the other facets that make it a community rich with art, culture and an indelible sense of resilience.
From musicians to sculptors, Candomblé houses to Capoeira clubs, there is a wide range of opportunity for this community to flourish and expand its resources in order to provide both preventative and rehabilitative programs for its youth and community at large. It has an extensive history, originating as a fisherman's village, turning into the site of countless textile factories, to supporting itself on the stilts of its floating villages, and evolving into a present mixture of all of these things along with a strong market for drug-trade, responsible for the exponential increase in the homicide rate.
The drug market has taken over the personality of the place in reputation, but represents only a tiny piece of this extensive and dynamic population. A Beleza do Subúrbio looks to highlight the latter, demonstrating everything that exists beyond the violence and the economic market that instigates it.
This map shows the number of homicides in specific neighborhoods in Bahia in the year 2010. We're working in the area outlined in blue.
In the year that this map was released, 1,479 deaths were registered in Salvador-- an average of 4 deaths a day. This number has increased dramatically in the last 3 years.
Adolescents between the ages of 12-19.
Some of the most excited, exciting, and excitable individuals I've yet met.
Informal artists with unbounded creativity that extends itself into any medium.
Individuals who are victims to violence as a result of living where they live. Sons and daughters of seamstresses and store-owners, blacksmiths and farmers, fisherman and teachers, high priestesses in spiritual houses and musicians. Whether directly or not, each one of these students has been touched by the violence that pervades their neighborhood and the loss the results from it.
Ultimately, a group of people with illimitable potential and gratitude for anyone who gives them a chance to explore it. This project serves as both a preventative and rehabilitative effort for victims of violence.
A 2-hour-long photo exhibition set up as a walking tour through the neighborhood, as well as a photo book containing the images taken by the students and a short documentary film directed by my friend, and filmmaker, J. Sebastian Barreneche.
Photos will be shown at the exhibition, and distributed as rewards for donations (that's you dear Donor!). These photos will be compiled into a photobook documenting the workshops and the final exhibition. The documentary film will include behind the scenes footage from the project, interviews with the students sharing their stories, as well as an experience of the final exhibition.
Eventually the photobook and film will be sold, and screened, in order to raise money to establish a more public location for the gallery, Acervo da Laje. This venue will be used to show the student’s photos as well as hold future community arts programs. We want to make this space not only more accessible to community residents (as the gallery now finds itself on the third floor of Dinho's home), but also self-sustaining.
In quilombos (run-away slave communities) in Bahia, there is a tradition in which the musicians of the village welcome visitors at the gates singing. They then lead the visitor to the town hall, or city center in a cortejo style (drumming and singing local folk songs). When the visitor is ready to leave, they perform the same ritual, singing the visitor from the city center to the gates. This project models this structure, welcoming visitors at the gates, and singing their way through the neighborhood (with pit-stops along the way) to the town hall, in this case, the Acervo da Laje. The goal of the Acervo da Laje is to serve as a home for the community. It is a safe-haven that enables residents of Subúrbio Ferroviário proximity to their past; a safe space to explore local history in light of an often overwhelming present.
But beyond all things serious and heavy, the main goal of this project is to get these students sharing their work, their stories and their neighborhood in a fun and interactive way. If there is one thing Bahia (and Brazil more generally) is known for, is being able to make a celebration out of anything, and we want to show that beauty is possible even in the most unexpected of places!
What I ask of you
In the process of making this project happen, we need just a few things. The most important element—digital cameras! They can be the most simple of point and shoot cameras; as long as they turn on and do the job, we’ll take them. If you have an old camera lying around that you don’t use any more, please send it our way. The rest of the cost is going to materials for workshops, the exhibition, and the final photo book and the film. With these funds, we will be able to put together a rooted and lasting product. Any little bit will truly make a difference!
Risks and challenges
Bahia is a place that can be immediately linked to a sense of unpredictability. Things move at their own pace and people are very relaxed. This is ultimately its greatest strength, but for someone doing work there, it is often the greatest challenge. After funding is completed, I foresee the largest issue being cooperation and efficiency. Along with this, there are challenges associated with the more technical aspects of this project (printing images and preparing materials for the exhibition). But I am confident that I have created enough connections and learned myself into the culture with familiarity in order to deal with these hurdles and make this happen.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)