Rio Day Seven – The Totally Inspirational Escola Vidigal

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If Counterflows and Novas Frequencias are about anything, they are about people. Music is the communication method we use to link our fragile souls. Today has been a very inspirational day and a moment, and they happen every so often, when the reason for doing what we do gets a little bit clearer. Tathiana arranged for Roberta and myself to visit the favela of Vidigal. Now, it is a tricky business visiting a place where even the word is emotive of poverty and crime, of drug lords, pacification and corruption and it is easy as a foreigner to get overly romantic or cynically critical. I am from Drumchapel in Glasgow after all and am fully aware of the stigma that a place name can have over the way your life may turn out. But there is a reason for the visit that is linked to what I hope that AC Projects can be. Tathiana’s husband Fabio has been working with the great Brazilian artist Vik Muniz on a project in Vidigal to develop an art school for the young people of the favela.

Roberta and I arrive in a taxi at the bottom end of Vidigal to meet up with Marianna and her partner Lincoln (sorry if this is wrong) they are going to be our guides for the afternoon. Marianna and Lincoln have an events company that strangely coincidentally is called A/C. Then the crazy fun bit. We jump on to our motorbike taxis and hurtle up the hillside hanging on for dear life. It is a triumph of nerve just to stay on the bike. We arrive at our destination to find a huddle of police cars parked at the top (no surprise then).

What an amazing place with the most stunning views of Rio. Vidigal is one of the smaller favelas and has had a tradition of artists living there for many years. People like Gal Costa have previously been resident. I mention this to give a wee bit of context to what an art school might be doing there. We clamber down to find the school. We come upon the most gorgeous spot for seeing the city. Here the boys are enjoying some Sunday afternoon beers. We graciously decline to join them, although it was tempting. Vik Muniz started out in life extremely poor and is now one of Brazil’s world reknowned respected artists working and living both in Rio and New York. The art school is testimony to his belief in the power of the arts to change lives. It is built with such attention to detail and is magnificent. Red brick walls built in the style of the surrounding houses but with lovely design details such as the windows. Daisy who has worked with Vik for over seven years and will be one of the schools teachers has agreed to open the school for us and shows us around on a Sunday. She explains what the goal of the school is and how they are busy planning the processes and just what way they will teach and just what they will teach. The school will start with young children between the ages of 4 – 8 and then develop further as the school itself develops. It would be a great facility anywhere but nestled in amongst the favela community it is a beacon of hope. I ask how the community has reacted so far and Daisy tells us that they are still healthily sceptical. There has been a lot of new developments over the last few years bringing bars and nightclubs to the favela which has pushed the prices of everything up so they remain curious but wondering. Once the school opens its doors it will be interesting to see what happens. I for one want to work there or at least I would love to look at telling this inspirational story to all. How one artist is giving back to his people.

We leave Daisy and her dream of offering the favela youngsters a chance and thank her for her snapshot of Vik Muniz’s compassion. We lunch in Vidigal and part company with the lovely Marianna and her colleague. Back to the festival.

It’s Oi Futuro again but unfortunately I miss the early evening performance as I didn’t quite get the timings right. But at 8.30pm I witness a rare performance in Rio of the Sal Paolo legends Hurtmold. It is great to see a six piece band on the Oi stage. Hurtmold are joined by the great percussionist Paulo Santos who plays all manner of things. Hurtmold play a sort of Brazilian post rock groove affair. Beautifully intricate but keeping the lines simple and clean so that it never gets complicated for complicated’s sake. A great use of vibes and percussion to illuminate the detail and good jaggy guitar patterns. And they go down a storm.

This research trip was kindly supported by:
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