Favela Rocinha is located in the heart of one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. With roughly 200,000 residents it is the largest and the most developed shantytown in South America.
Last summer US artist Lais Lacher volunteered as kids photography teacher in Rocinha. At the end of 2 month course Lais let the participants of the photography course use her Nikon D60 digital camera to capture their interpretations of the place they call home. The result is Fotos for Favelas series – not influenced by adults’ favela mythology, but rather a plethora of slice of life photography done by local kids with no political filters or artistic embellishments.
“I went to teach English for one month, however when I got there and met the spirited children that were my students I saw the amazing opportunities for photography in Rocinha, I decided also to teach a photography class. I was impressed with the quality and creativity of
their photos and decided to continue the project from the United States as a fundraising opportunity for their community…With the money the day care center will be able to make improvements in the children’s after school and day care programs. The children will gain further confidence in their ability to change their lives and the lives of others through their hard work and creativity,” says Lais Lacher [fotosforfavelas.org]
Léo Lima (known as Léo do Jacarezinho) was born, raised and lives in Jacare, one of Rio’s 600 favelas. His works at multimedia group “Imagens do Povo” (“Images of the people”), Brazilian NGO that teaches photography in favelas, are distinctive with poetic immediacy and honesty of an insider. Leo’s mission is to record the daily life of the favelas respecting human rights and local culture.
In May of this year, Ticún Brasil brought together Fotos for Favelas and Léo Lima’s photography for the exhibit at FB Gallery of Brazilian art in New York. “The main challenge was not to fall into stereotypes about Rio de Janeiro. Too often, the city is shown as either a paradise in the hills, or a city of contrasts, or a very violent and depressing place. Works that we display at the exhibit this week are distinctive with poetic immediacy and honesty of an insider, ” wrote Brazil NYC.
“The works are impressive because they show an organic POV of a very different world that isn’t often documented,” concluded Heeb Magazine.
Following the exhibit, the article about Leo Lima was published at the largest website in Portuguese speaking world (UOL) and his exhibit opened in Rio de Janeiro. “I want my photographs to be known as artistic and political. Art for the art sake could be reflective, but lacks the political power of transformation. I’m not neutral, I have my politics and my photography has this bias and critical questioning. These are records of many lives that exist but never shown,” commented Leo Lima.
Later this Summer Ticún Brasil helped organize a series of seminars for Fotos For Favelas kids. Imagens Do Povo send Léo Lima and photography professor Tatiana Altberg to teach the ‘Pinhole Project‘ in favela Rocinha. We wish best of luck to their new students!
“We put photo paper inside the can which reacts to light. There’s no need to focus or to set the aperture,” explains one of the amateur photographers, 13-year-old Julia.
Taking a pinhole photo demands patience. Whereas a digital camera can snap several images per second, to be immediately looked at, a pinhole camera demands standing still for seconds or for minutes, and only seeing the result once the film is developed.
Kids are taken by this other notion of time that is the opposite of the speedy world in which we live,” photography professor Tatiana Altberg said.
Find out how you can teach art in favelas and about other volunteering options in Brazil on our Ticún page.
Ticún Brasil supports Brazilian Jewish community in their struggle for religious tolerance. On October 16th a mass march for religious freedom in Rio de Janeiro along Rio’s Copacabana beach drew more than 200,000 people, according to CONIB, the umbrella group representing Brazil’s Jewish communities.
Our event took place 10 days later in New York providing a creative post-Yom Kippur experience and featuring multimedia presentation of Afro-Brazilian Umbanda rituals. “Last Wednesday night, when much of the Jewish community was still bolting bagels and lox to break the Yom Kippur fast, about 50 Jews were taking in the art and music of Umbanda, an eclectic religion unique to Brazil, at a downtown gallery,” wrote The Jewish Week.
The photography was projected to large baloons transforming the gallery’s space and creating the immersible environment.
‘Umbanda reveals isomorphisms and similarities between so many cultures that it can be seen as exemplar of coexistence.’ says Mel Alexenberg, head of the Emuna College School of the Arts in Jerusalem in his “Educating artists for the future”.
The exhibit featured works by acclaimed Brazilian artists: Antonio Bokel (paintings), Marcello Vitorino, Daniel Protzner and A Pandilla collective (photography).
Live performances by Café da Silva (Umbanda percussion) and Yesenia Selier (spirits of the ancestors dance) brough the vibes of Afro-Brazilian mysticism to downtown Manhattan.
Discussion of religious tolerance and Jewish volunteering in Brazil followed the performance.
The weeklong trip features volunteering, Jewish activism and sightseeing
Participants will volunteer in a favela (shantytown – Portuguese). Our main partner is Iko Poran, the oldest and most respected Brazilian volunturism NGO in Rio (according to March 2012 edition of O Globo, the main Brazilian newspaper). Iko Poran’s mission is to help improve the lives of Brazil´s poorest.
To create a tangible effect in the course of just one week, several activities will be selected to cover everyone’s abilities (i.e. mix of gardening, renovations, painting and library work). Each volunteer will be spending most of the daytime Monday to Thursday on one of the projects.
See sample projects video:
One of the goals of Ticún Brasil is to link two Jewish communities – US and Brazilan that share similar values and challenges. In the course of the week volunteers will have informal meetings with local Jewish leaders, intellectuals and activists of social justice (i.e. Hillel Rio de Janeiro, Centro Cultural Midrash and Edelstein Center for Social Research).
This video echoes Passover dayenu (“it would have sufficed”) story, telling about all the Hillel Rio initiatives (alas, in Portuguese only, but images are self explanatory):
Every day we will go out to explore authentic live music scene of the city. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be fully recreational and spend on the beaches, mountains and other natural wonders of Rio:
November 17th – November 24th (Thanksgiving holidays).
R$ 1260 (Brazilian Reals)* per participant includes 7 days/7 nights of accommodations, transportation to and from the volunteering center, donation to the partner favela community organization (50% of the cost!), daily breakfasts, lunches on the volunteering days (Monday to Thursday), city guidebooks, 24/7 emergency contact and farewell BBQ.
Airfare, visa (needed for US citizens, but not for Israelis, Russians, Ukranians etc.), dinners, non volunteering related transportation and activities are not included.
*Price is quoted in Brazilian Reals and valid up to May 31st, 2012. It is approximately € 550 (Euro), or $700 (US Dollars). For current exchange rates, click here.
The guesthouse (Casa Aurelia Bed and Breakfast or similar) is at Santa Teresa – hilly bohemian area with superb views over Rio, vibrant cultural life and winding cobbled streets.
The volunteers stay in shared rooms. Limited number of private rooms are available at extra cost of R$600/per person.
Request additonal info/application from firstname.lastname@example.org. After we review your completed form, you’ll be contacted for in-person interview with local Ticún Brasil coordinators.
Commitment Form and 50% of the Cost (non refundable deposit) per participant are due by May 31st, 2012.
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The 1930s Yiddish textbook from São Paulo wasn’t joking – Carnival, seen as a wild Pagan/Christian street party, appalled the immigrants arriving to Brazil from the early 20th century Europe (ancestors to majority of today’s Jewish community):
Since then the community went a long journey of integration and, alas, assimilation. The good news is – it’s not just about Carnival partying perceived by Jews as a fun civil duty, the holiday is increasingly becoming a channel to showcase Jewish culture to fellow Brazilians. Don’t be surprised if you spot Hebrew symbols at the Sambadrome: Jewish Culture Center in Sao Paulo recently joined Mangueira samba school to present Exodus story at the Rio Carnival.
Procession included a car in the shape of a Star of David, a tall golden menorah and a model of the Western Wall.“The samba parade in Rio is the largest popular culture expression in the world. This is an opportunity for the Jewish community to promote its values,”David Feffer, president of the center’s board, said in an open letter to the Jewish community.
“The Jewish Culture Center decided to support this project because it matches the institution’s mission to deliver Jewish culture to the society of this country, which has received us Jews so warmly,” he said. “I am certain that everyone in the Jewish community will be very proud when they see Mangueira’s parade boasting the story of the Jewish slaves in Egypt being freed by Moses.”
Some of the samba school’s float was dedicated to Judaism, as participants – most of them non-Jews – danced dressed with religious symbols (peyot and tefillin) carried small Torahs made of paperboard and wore dreidels and stars of David on their hats.
The Jewish themed dance won the 2nd place that year. Of course, this was Carnival, and one dancer had a glittering Star of David necklace bouncing on her bare chest.
Brazilian Jews even brought the ritual to Israel. As Israeli president Shimon Peres noticed last year, “I acknowledge that we do not have a Carnival like in Rio. But I will remind you that in Israel a Brazilian Kibbutz lives and breathes. It is named Bror Hail, and it is one of the wonders among us. It is known as the “Brazilian Kibbutz” because it was established by immigrants from Brazil. In Bror Hail, the community continues the tradition of a Brazilian Carnival. Of course, not as large as at Salvador, but I promise you, to the same rhythm.”
Fun places to debate whether Carnival is good for the Jews are Hillel and Chabad centers open to visitors during the holidays. In Salvador, for example, Chabad offers popular Carnival Shabbat services.