Turning negatives into positives via art in Rio

A favela means “slum” in Brazilian Portugese and it was one of the first words I learnt when booking our trip to South America. We were researching accommodation for Rio, where we will be staying over New Years Eve and comments on one travel website indicated there was a “favela” behind our preferred hotel.

My travel buddies did not believe me so I told them to google it, but then I decided to google earth it, which was even more effective.

In Rio favelas tend to be situated high in the hills and have some of the best views in the city. The buildings in favelas look like precarious houses stacked on top of each other. Favelas are shanty towns, mostly on the outskirts of the city but some in the middle of the city. Favelas have a reputation for being dangerous and are definitely not normally on a tourist route, even locals don’t go there unless they live there. More importantly, they are notorious for being the home of drug and crime gangs.

We still booked the hotel as we have decided we need to experience it all in Rio.

Today I was googling and I came across a website about 2 Dutchmen, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre UrHahn, who since 2006 have been “Favela Painting”, an idea of painting murals in favelas with participation from the local communities, especially the youth.

Now it seems these 2 inspiring Dutchmen, referred to as Haas and Hahn, have gone one better with the commencement of a project they are calling the “O Morro” scheme, the painting of an entire favela called Santa Marta. “O Morro” means “the hill”, and Haas and Hahn have started with the town square of Santa Marta, turning the buildings into a predesigned colourful mural that can be seen from the centre of Rio. Later this year they hope to come back and cover the whole shanty town. The end product will be a piece of artwork, an idea and piece of artwork that is already attracting worldwide attention.

What a great concept, turning something that is ugly and feared into something attractive, bright and welcoming. It gives a sense of worth to the community who live in the favela while bringing attention to these favelas.

Join their facebook page or follow them on twitter, or even better donate to this worthy cause.


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WOW, those photos from the facebook page are beautiful. What a good idea, a way to draw the community together and make them feel proud of where they live. Love it!


We have to go and check these out!

Definitely, might need a bodyguard?

[...] did not want to leave Rio before visiting a favela (shanty town) as I mentioned in my earlier planning blog and I really wanted to visit the favela at Santa Marta after following the favela painting campaign [...]

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