Friday, November 29, 2013

A Special Visitor


All photography by Beccy McCray and Rachel Tanugi Ribas


I love the work I do. I can meet awesome people from all over the world. I received a email a couple of months ago about a woman who wanted to make an art project here. She also wanted to stay in the favela which was even better. Her name is Beccy from the UK. She wanted to do three different art projects and was able to hook up with two NGO's here to work with residents to complete her ideas. The first of her projects was teaching residents how to weave or make friendship bracelets with colored string. The second project was making a huge art board of a favela but made with items used from garbage or recycling. The third was these kites with messages written on them that would be exchanged with people in the UK. I had a chane to interview Beccy about her visit work here in Rocinha!


1. Whats your name? Where are you from? Beccy McCray; I'm an artist from the UK, based between Hackney and Hastings.


2. Talk a bit about your background with art (mention your website, blog) I explore playful, socially engaged art and design using a multi-disciplinary approach in whatever realm necessary to create imaginative acts of resistance and more human moments in the world. Elevating the everyday and the things that really matter, I aim to break down boundaries between art, activism and everyday life. Her practice ultimately aims to spread a little joy and inspire positive change at a grass roots level, using creativity to communicate environmental and social ideals that go hand in hand: I also work under the name of Crafternoon Tea Club, a project with collaborator Hannah Elbourne, which explores participatory and community art, combined with DIY craft-based tradition which can take any form; from games and installation, to collage, baking, parties and painting. The project acts as both curator and collaborator; creating artistic frameworks within which unexpected situations can occur. It aims to blur lines between artist and audience, bringing people together through the sharing of materials and ideas, and use collective powers for the greater good. To find out more about Crafternoon Tea Club and further Crafternoon projects click here: Recent projects and latest artworks have been commissioned by the Turner Contemporary, The Olympic Park Legacy Company, The Barbican, The National Theatre, Secret Garden Party, Home Live Art, Hastings Council, Coastal Currents arts festival, Create London, and the Women's Institute.


3. How did you find Rocinha? When I started looking into Rio's favela's Rocinha's name cropped up many times. I guess primarily due it being Latin America's largest favela, and because at the time I was researching the project there were some big news stories happening around Rocinha (e.g. the Amarildo de Souza case).


4. Why Rocinha and not some other place? I wanted to explore favela life to get a better understanding of how other communities and social systems operate. I knew that community spirit is very strong there and wanted to experience this first hand. I also wanted to use this knowledge to challenge misconceptions that most people have of life in favelas and the people who live in them. Rocinha felt like the most accessible favela for a first time visitor and the community centres I connected with were both based there.


5. Explain a little about the projects you were doing here. (mention two brothers and fabrica verde) I believe that art can be a catalyst for change, altering the way people see themselves and the world around them. Many people associate favelas with violence and drug trafficking; yet the vast majority of people here wish to live in peace. I wanted to challenge these misconceptions by using art to tell truths about favela life and its people. So during November I was based in Rocinha working with the local community at 2Brothers and Fabrica Verde community centres. Art can offer a different identity for people living in deprived areas like Rocinha and open up options that they may not have otherwise considered. Art can teach people of all all ages new skills and new concepts, such as recycling, making them realise that they can make a difference to their own lives and those of others. I have hopefully developed an on-going relationship with the people of Rocinha and have brought an opportunity to reach outside the favela, and even their country, to demonstrate the community spirit and creativity which is intrinsic to life here. If we can show the outside world these qualities it will not only help breed understanding, but also inspire hope and generate a feeling of empowerment for those living in the favela. Using art we have made connections with the UK and taken positive messages to the wider world we can generate media awareness and therefore make our own contribution towards combating social inequality and poverty in the area. You can see more about the project outcomes and final artworks here:


6. What did you like about staying in the favela? The people. Everyone I met has been so hospitable, friendly, warm and kind. The street food is great too - people warn you off but I had churrasco every day for my dinner with no problems! Being in the heart of the favela; the alley ways, the hand painted signage, the tiny cafes, the live street samba, the amazing view of Rocinha on the hill from Dembore's window, the friendly faces - intriguing, beautiful, atmospheric and inspiring.


7. What didn't you like about staying in the favela? I was shocked at the amount of waste and rubbish everywhere. Also the dog poo! The constant noise and the density of the area became quite intense and opressive after a while too - it's really true that Rocinha never sleeps.


8. Would you recommend others to come stay in the favela and make projects here? Absolutely! The people of Rocinha are so uninhibited and creative.


9.What kinds of projects do you think are needed here? Projects which have educational benefit to the community and inspire hope. Also any project which raises awareness to the outside world of how life here really is and all the positive things about the community in Rocinha.


10. Overall how was your experience here in Rocinha? Incredible. It's impossible to fully prepare yourself for what its like here.


11. Anything else to add or advice to visitors/volunteers coming here? Bring earplugs to help sleep at night! If you want to look like less of a gringo, slow your walking pace down and get a pair of Havianas! Talk to people, don't be afraid, get to know the people you meet.


Its people like Beccy McCray who bring her art that helps to make the favela a better place to live. Thank you Beccy! If you have interest to make a project or volunteer here in Rocinha, please contact me at: