Developing a cultural identity whilst living in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro is a complicated process. Establishing the areas where you culturally resonate is hard, when your life is governed by the pressures of work, safety and survival.
“But the favelas are so culturally distinguished?”, you might think. The culture of favelas that the world understands, is so far removed from the reality.
Images of guns and drugs, music and corrugated iron, is an accurate portrait. It is only accurate, however, to 1% of the favela life.
The other 99% is a space in which people are looking to grow and develop, establish cultural links between each other, and form an identity that is stronger than the global image of favela life.
A vital part of cultural identity is being able to confidently align yourself with a cultural signifier. The more secure you feel in this link, the stronger your identity. Through our Projects, ACE is looking to build the confidence of our communities, by allowing them to make cultural roots in our activities. Children can now define themselves as ‘a breakdancer’, instead of someone who doesn’t know who they are and what they want to do.
Children are now tennis players, photographers, artists and linguists. These are not just activities they do alongside their life - these are the cultures the children are building themselves into.
The predominant culture in the favelas is one of drugs. Whether directly or indirectly involved, drug culture pervades. But the value of culture cannot be defined by its size. It only takes one class of breakdancers, and one court of tennis players, to create a culture that is stronger, more meaningful and provides more stability than any other.
We are not just building a future for the favelas. The children are creating culture, so they can define what it means to be part of a favela. They are learning about themselves, each other, and about the wider global community. So it is our responsibility to learn about them.
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