RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week I wrote about the movie ‘Waste Land’ (‘Lixo Extraordinário’), a documentary about a Rio-based social project led by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz.
As it happens, Vik Muniz has chosen none other than Vidigal for his latest social project. He’s been busy constructing a new building-studio-facility which sits at the top of the favela with, of course, a beautiful view.
The requirement for “The View” is de rigueur for most newbies, particularly these days for those with a good flow of cash as they capitalise on a bizarre new wave of favela gentrification, or ‘gentrificação’. This is contrary to the fact that it’s traditionally the poorest who live further up since they have less access to amenities, a poorer infrastructure and at times a mammoth task to make their way up the steep mountain to get home. (We all like to live at the top to start with, me included, before the novelty of the awe-inspiring view makes way for the convenience of living closer to the bottom.)
There have been mixed feelings among residents about the latest addition to the Vidigal’s creative clan. Some have wondered what plans Vik Muniz has up his sleeve; others, voicing concerns that his imposing new building will ruin the view from Arvrão, the spot at the top of Vidigal which is steadily gaining the enviable reputation of having one of the best views of Rio.
However, it would appear that Muniz’s intentions are good and there have been assurances that his new building won’t obstruct the view. When construction is complete the building will house a social project for young people from Vidigal and beyond, the Escola do Vidigal (Vidigal School).
This school, part of an NGO, is being opened to provide children and teenagers with the opportunity to learn about the creative industries. Muniz has reportedly been working in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US to bring a teaching methodology which aspires to guide students beyond their roles as mere consumers, instead, developing their skills as producers of art and technology.
To this aim, as if Vidigal wasn’t becoming bizarre enough already, there are even rumours that American rapper Kanye West wants to open a recording studio in Vidigal as part of the Escola do Vidigal project.
Vidiwonders never cease.
Back to Vik Muniz. It seems that even residents who have been critical of his arrival in the neighbourhood, wary of his intentions and the impact of his big new building, may be coming round to the idea that he is here to do something good.
After all, he does appear to put his creativity to good use in tackling social issues and helping communities.
Construction of the Escola do Vidigal is due to finish in the next few months or so; project work should start thereafter. More on this when there’s more news to share. There’s the small matter of the World Cup to deal with between now and then, probably…
Sarah is a student at the Casa do Caminho Language School and a writer for Encounter Brazil. ‘A new burst of Vidicreativity: Escola do Vidigal’ and all of Sarah’s other blog posts are reprinted with the permission of Encounter Brazil.
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