Building in the favelas: the resources of solidarity


‘The aim of the exhibition is not so much that of illustrating the worldwide phenomenon of shanty towns (favelas, barriadas, bidonvilles or other), sadly destined to increase continually as so-called development procedes. The objective is rather to highlight, starting from the life of the Brazilian “favelados”, those human resources which are now a significant answer to the dramatic situation of these people. Brazilian favelas are suburban districts of big cities, made up of hovels heaped up along slopes, close to the rivers or straight at the shadow of the skyscrapers. Millions of people live there; they have migrated from their homelands because of drought or other natural calamities, but, often, because of well-organised advertising campaigns aiming at creating huge reservoirs of cheap labour. Many people move therefore to the cities hoping to find security and a job: instead, they find casual work, misery, neglect and precariousness. Whoever is in power does not find it convenient to build houses for the favelados; indeed, at the most appropriate time, these poor people are moved from the places where they had “illegaly” built their huts. This is the terrible life cycle of a favelado: emigration, roaming, removal and all over again. Despite all this, one can still find in the favelas some traits of humanity, some lived values, which constitute a hope everyone can look at. The first answer which comes from the life in a favela is gratuitousness, which is the exact opposite of exploitation. Only gratuitousnees makes it possible to fight for a different tomorrow (for a house, a job, for health, schooling, etc.), without letting the sad ritual of hatred and violence overwhelm the love for life, for human relationships and for hope. Gratuitousness is the foundation for building together and looking for solutions today. Another important aspect of the history of the Brazilian people in general, and particularly of the favelados, is that the encounter between Christianity and local traditions has for many centuries been giving value and transfiguring the desires, values and innate virtues of these people. Thanks to this, even the redemption from pain and poverty already starts in the favelas, with the victory over alienation and discouragement, selfishness and indifference, with the defence of one’s own original culture and the fight against the enchantments that the world of the rich proposes, at the most appropriate moment. The presence of those who have christianly accepted to serve this reality with love, so that a work can be born from within, which is not illusionary for the dignity of these people, “goes beyond the assistential image of the relationship between church and people, because it is not about doing some good to the poor – maybe even with commitment and generosity, but about exalting what they are already rich with: those values which the rest of society has long lost or denied”. The exhibition particularly shows how self-building, which is a primary need of these homeless, becomes an occasion for cultural resistence, of memory of one’s own roots and of creativity. It also suggests some ways of analysing and reading this constructive language. Gathering the material for the exhibition has been possible thanks to the collaboration of an Italian priest, Fr Pigi Bernareggi, who shares the life of the inhabitants of many favelas in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.’


21 Agosto 1982 - 29 Agosto 1982


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions