Meditation on the Favela

“Meditation on Favela”  is part of “Divided Brazil” an on going research about the problem of historical knowledge and the African diaspora created by the slave trade, a memory judged too dangerous to social stability to activate and create.

Despite the good reputation of multi-racial democracy propagated outside the country, marginalization really exists in Brazil as I found when living in the favelas of Salvador de Bahia and in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil was built on slave trade. The collective mistreatment and subjection of countless millions of men, women, and children brought from Africa was a necessary step in the foundation of this country.
Today Afro-Brasilians have no political representation and above a certain educational level everyone is white. White teenagers receive on average three years more of education than black teenagers. Even if the “Bolsa Familia “, a financial program supporting poor families has reduced economic disparity by 20% since 2001, educational disparity remains unchanged. The education system is a key instrument of social control and cultural discrimination: African history and civilization has never been taught, Western values have been imposed and this has been portrayed as integration and syncretization. Afro-Brazilians are denied their own culture and history and live in the favelas, urban slums controlled by traficantes.Young people between 15 and 30 years old involved in drugs and arms trafficking die every day: in fact they don’t have to die in order to be dead. Their death is deferred, kept in suspension. Death is a leitmotif.
Salvador does not have the UPP, Rio de Janeiro’s Police Pacification Unit program, designed to increase public security for the World Cup and Olympics.

Photographing has been a complex experience. Starting with my desire to explore and understand this reality, it involved a gradual process of emotional and critical engagement with the Other. I created three multimedia essays (Meditation on the Favela, Embodied Self and Between Anthropology and Malandrade), alternating between straightforward reportage on the favela and a more intimate investigation of the “favelado” and “malandro”. These have nothing to lose, so turn to the life of an outlaw, guilty but not responsible.

My approach has been guided by Afro-Brasilian thinker Abdias do Nascimento, author of several publications and founder of Black Experimental Theater in Rio de Janeiro, by the personal journal of Maria Carolina de Jesus “Quarto do Despejo” and by Paulo Freire, author of “Pedagogia do Oprimido”.