21 January 2010

A new look at the favela

Vila Cruzeiro, Rio's most notorious slum, has been the site of open warfare between local police and Comando Vermelho, the drug gang that controls the neighborhood. Walls in the neighbourhood are marked with bullet holes and spray-painted warnings: 'Attention neighbours. In days of war, avoid leaving the house. Thank you, Comando Vermelho.'

Struck by the disconnect between these neighourhoods and the city that surrounds them, a duo of Dutch artists known as Haas & Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhan) started imagining ways to encourage the citizens of Rio to take a second look at one of their city's defining features. With the help of three friends from the neighborhood, Haas & Hahn spent nine months meticulously painting a carp-filled river in the style of a Japanese tattoo along a winding concrete staircase that extends from the favela's main street Rua Santa Helena.

"If you want to build a bridge between these two sides of the city that live side by side but have an enormous gap between them," Urhan explains, "the easiest way is to do it through some sort of art intervention." Koolhaas adds: "We tried to find a way for the [residents'] sense of pride to be painted on the walls of the favela so that the outside world could see how good they feel about themselves and could understand that there are families here that can take care of themselves."

Favela Pianting, site and article in Art Review

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