Cultural expressions of community

"La Galería José María Velasco fue fundada en septiembre de 1951 por el Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, y se ubica en el barrio de Tepito, uno de los más populares de la Ciudad de México, aunque también uno de los más peligrosos. Creada en conjunto con otras tres galerías populares distribuidas en distintos puntos del Distrito Federal, su objetivo es romper con los esquemas tradicionales de distribución y exhibición de artes populares en el marco de un programa de descentralización de la cultura e interacción con la comunidad."


Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community ManagerFrom margins to spotlight: unlocking youth creativity through art

Victoria Okoye, Lagos Community Manager

In marginalized communities like Ajegunle and Oshodi, the BornTroWay Creative Arts Project is empowering and spotlighting youth art creativity. The project started in Ajegunle, considered one of Lagos' harshest slum settlements. But the project capitalizes on the contradictions within this space: Ajegunle, like other blighted areas, is often typecast for its challenges and labeled a slum, an informal and marginalized community. However, it is also a thriving place where some of the country's premier athletes and performers have grown up: There's Emmanuel Amuneke, a former footballer who represented Nigeria in the 1994 World Cup, and also Don Jazzy, the president and founder of the major music label Mo Hits Records, which produces successful music acts who have reached national and international fame. Despite its social and economic challenges, there is creativity — often untapped — in such communities.

The organization's name is a play on words; the Nigerian pidgin phrase born troway ("born throw away") refers to the alienation and marginalization of these youth from mainstream society. The project's aim is in celebrating the talent of young people in these communities, and giving them the opportunity to express their unique voice.

"I always think words matter a lot in terms of inspiring and projecting feelings and reality," says Ilaria Chessa, BornTroWay's co-founder — who, along with international music artist Ade Bantu, founded the organization in 2011. In their brainstorming sessions, she says they discussed how kids from these deprived communities are treated as born troway — left there, abandoned, for life to take care of them. "Why not choose a word that actually pierces through the conscious of people and makes them see the truth behind the labels that they use?" she questioned. The youth participants may initially see themselves as marginalized, she said, but they bring a new and different definition through their artistic creations. "Rather, it's those people in society who are looking at these kids as worthless, as if they don't stand a chance — it is they who are missing out — by not investing in the talents that these kids have at so many levels."

The project's formula is simple: a competitive public audition, through which just over a dozen youth are selected, then an intensive, five-day creativity training workshop, and then, finally, a public performance. Through the five-day youth arts training — focused on dance, drama, spoken word, and music — the project builds the talents, self-esteem, and consciousness of young people (from the ages of 15-22 years) who, as part of their training, create an original script and choreography for public performance.

The team includes Ilaria Chessa, a former development economist and film festival organizer, as producer and co-founder; Ade Bantu, an award-winning musical artist, as co-founder, music facilitator, and creative director; culture, art, and media consultant Ropo Ewenla and drama instructor Kayode Omolola, who serve as acting and theatre facilitators; spoken word poet, writer, and teacher AJ Dagga Tolar, who facilitates the spoken word and music; and Segun Adefila, a performance artist who facilitates the dance portion of the workshop.

From the margins to center stage

Working through these youth, the project also aims to promote peace and unity. The project helps these young people to come out of their shell, explore, and exhibit their creative talents. Through dance, poetry, theatre, and music, their public performances regularly feature calls for community action and improvement, from addressing waste and pollution to education, from child abuse and marginalization to collective responsibility.

It was in Ajegunle that BornTroWay was launched in May 2011. From there, the project took its initiative to Port Harcourt in October 2011 and Durban, South Africa in December 2011. While in Durban, the participants also took part in the World Climate Conference. For its fourth edition in August 2012, BornTroWay returned to Lagos in the Oshodi community. The Oshodi public performance took place in Cairo Market, where youth performed original music and theatre for a diverse audience. The lyrics for the original song the youth performed called for the residents to transform their community into a better place, free of violence, a place of peace and harmony.

For you and I to talk together
As a family, in peace and harmony
We can make Oshodi a better place
For you and you, for me and you
We can make Oshodi a better place
In Oshodi we don't wan fight

the children sing in this video of their Cairo Market performance, captured by local news coverage of the creative arts project.

For its fifth edition, BornTroWay worked with youth in the Bariga community of Lagos. Altogether, Chessa estimates, BornTroWay has worked with nearly 200 youth in its work so far.

Planting the seeds for new opportunities

For the youth participants, BornTroWay is making a difference in their lives that goes far beyond teaching them to dance, to act, write a song or rap. Even in the first few days of each workshop, Chessa says, the difference she sees in many of the kids is amazing. At the beginning of the workshop, she sees kids who lack confidence, who don't know how to present themselves. Yet from the second day, she and her team see a new set of people; even the light she sees in their eyes is amazing, she says.

"The transformation is a marvel to observe," she says. "Because it's only a five-day course ... it's just there to plant a seed of inspiration, and then that seed is watered by the kids themselves. It's just basically a wake-up call to say, 'Hey, you guys, have you seen what you've got?'"

Former participants can speak endlessly to the skills and insights they've gained from their experience. Some, like Godson, a 23-year old youth turned musical artist, are following a more predictable path: "As I'm talking to you now, I have a record deal, and just I launched my album last week," he says. Godson participated in the BornTroWay Oshodi workshop in August 2012. His album, Sabulou (Hausa for "soap") refers to his call for everyone to wash away bad problems and thoughts through dance.

"I learned a lot, I learned to believe in myself," affirms Godson, who says one of the major talents he gained through the workshop was in dance, as well as support in his music from Bantu. "Whatever I am doing in my career, I'm always with BornTroWay," he says. "We're like family, we're a family."

18-year-old Franchesca from Ajegunle, who recently completed her secondary school study, says the most important lessons she gained from the workshop were on teamwork, humility, and love. "If you say you want to work on your own, you won't achieve anything in life," she said. "You have to carry people along, you have to work as a team." She's now part of a team working to organize a concert in February for BroTroWay Ajegunle, putting into practice the lessons she's learned from her experience.

While some of the project's participants may continue with careers in the arts, Chessa says that the important takeaway for these kids is the self-discovery of their talents and how to use them, in whatever facet of life. "We are using arts as a means to awaken kids self-confidence and appreciation for hard work, focus, and teamwork. But at the same time, it doesn't mean that we are hoping that everybody becomes an artist," Chessa says. "With that self-confidence, they become a leader in any walk of life that they happen to be in ... They may discover their talents in the arts, or they may become doctors or nurses; it doesn't matter. What matters is that the spirit with which they are doing these things is a leading spirit."

"We want to reawaken the sense of self-worth in our youth, so that they can truly play their role in our society," she adds.

Future opportunities

In a little over a year, BornTroWay has built a strong, successful history of performances in Nigeria and South Africa. In the future, BornTroWay and its leadership team look to partner with local organizations and other artists — and, eventually, to set up permanent, accessible community centers as spaces where youth can come, create, share, and network, making their ideas a reality. With all of the instructors based in Lagos, it also makes logistical sense to continue focusing on the city's more accessible communities, and Chessa says that the team is looking to launch initiatives in Mushin, Obalende, and Makoko.

"It is about making an impact in an environment of young people who are living at different levels of neglect, either by the government or by the general society," said Ropo Enwenla, facilitator for theatre arts with BornTroWay, during the Ajegunle workshop.

"If we didn't for once think that it was going to make a difference, then we wouldn't have come," Ewenla has said. "We believe that we have a package, that can, in all situations, when applied correctly, bring about social change, transformation, and positive development."

To see BornTroWay Creative Project's work in action, see the video of their work in Ajegunle:

In Port Harcourt, Nigeria:

In Durban, South Africa:

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community ManagerNairobi's Slum Film Festival

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager

Nairobi Half Life is the moving story of a young aspiring actor who moves to Nairobi to "make it," only to plunge headfirst into a life of robbery and crime. As the first Kenyan-directed feature film to make a serious international splash, it is worth watching out for — provided it ever does come to a cinema near you...

The film, which was recently submitted for consideration in the "Best Foreign Film" category for the 2013 Academy Awards, is part of a growing wave of Kenyan cinema that is gradually beginning to create a stir, both at home and abroad.

Although the Kenyan government does little to encourage film production in the country, there are a number of NGOs and trusts that focus on putting film recording equipment in the hands of slum dwellers and helping them gain the skills necessary to tell their own stories.

Organizations like the Hot Sun Foundation, Slum-TV, and Invisible Cities have trained and nurtured talented youth from Kibera, Mathare, and Korogocho over the years, giving them the opportunity to develop their potential and, through their images, to challenge the accepted vision of what life is like in the slums.

In August this year, Hot Sun Films and Slum-TV joined together to produce the Nairobi Slum Film Festival (SFF). Originally the brainchild of Federico Olivieri — who, until recently, held the post of cultural attaché at the Spanish Embassy — the festival, which ran for over a week, was produced with the financial help of the Spanish International Development Agency, Alliance Francaise, FilmAid, and other local partners.

Olivieri took the time to tell us what had inspired him to organize such an event. "Initially," he said, "I thought that it could be useful to create and support a cultural event in which a free African film screening was organized in the most disadvantaged areas of Nairobi. However, after discovering that many films were already made every year within these very slums by organizations like Hotsun Foundation or Slum-TV, I thought that it would be even more beneficial for slum dwellers to have their own films shown within their own areas.

"This is how, with the help of the coordinators of SlumTV and Hotsun Foundation, we came up with the idea of celebrating a 'slum' film festival. By launching the festival, my main intention was to create a cultural platform that could give more visibility to slum filmmakers and artists in general, while also connecting them to other (international) festivals where their films could be shown."

This year was the second edition of the SFF. Over the course of the week, areas of Kibera and Mathare slums were turned into large open-air cinemas in which more than thirty short films, coming from Nairobi's informal settlements as well as Uganda and Tanzania, were projected for the benefit of the community and anyone else who wanted to attend.

The festival culminated in a gala night held at the Alliance Francaise cinema, in which the ten best films were screened and awards were handed out to the three that had been voted as winners by the panel.

Unfortunately, the selection process for the winning films has suffered from allegations that Hot Sun made up a large portion of the judging panel and then went on to vote their own productions as the winners. The Slum Film Festival web site is currently down, so it has been impossible to verify these rumors independently.

Nevertheless, the event was widely applauded, especially by the communities it had been intended for, who were given the opportunity to see a wide range of films that they would not otherwise have been able to see.

Collins Omondi, 29, a Slum-TV member and the festival's co-director, told us that "people from the community are really happy to be able to attend an event like this. Not only are the stories about them, but it is their own brothers, sisters, and friends who have actually brought them to life."

Olivieri believes that it is necessary to stage events of this kind in disadvantaged neighborhoods, especially in a city like Nairobi where the cultural sphere is becoming more and more active and influential. "The SFF is important because it creates a space for those artists who, by being confined to their slum reality, sometimes find less opportunities to make their cultural productions jump beyond the informal settlements," he said.

According to Olivieri, events like the SFF are also important "because they can show slum dwellers about their own potential to find individual and collective solutions to their problems, while offering a voice to their artists to be heard within and beyond their local audiences. Slums are so often defined exclusively by outsiders, so I think that it is very important that slum dwellers can spread their own representations of slums, with their own stories, problems, and needs."

It's a process that works both ways: events like the SFF help slum dwellers to redefine themselves, while at the same time showing people that slums are much more than just "informal settlements" where negative news and denigrating activities take place.

"The SFF does not want to legitimize the existence of informal settlement, but it wants to engage in new solutions by showing the world that slums are also home for talented artists and positive initiatives," Olivieri concludes. "To put it simply, the SFF is important because it gives a voice to slum artists, it generates a space for slum filmmaking, and it helps create awareness of a more realistic image of slums and their people to outsiders."

Putting video cameras into slum dwellers' hands and training them in video production does more than raise the capacity of talented youth to express themselves. By watching the films — both factual and fictional — that their fellow community members have produced, slum dwellers can identify with the stories and feel a sense of pride of place. And this is a two-way process: it also helps build a sense of identity that may previously have been largely dictated by government and NGO reports and the occasional damning news feature. By seeing themselves through a different prism — their own — communities can begin to reimagine themselves and, in the process, embark on a cycle of reinvention.

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerArt and expression in Dharavi

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

On any given day, the narrow lanes of Mumbai's 600,000-resident slum are bustling: street vendors selling their wares, children in striped uniforms bouncing their way to school, and women in colorful saris sweeping the small stoops outside their homes. Life carries on with buoyancy and vibrancy, despite the harsh realities faced daily by Dharavi residents.

However, the stories of community life inside Dharavi are often told through shocking statistics — from population size and life expectancy rates to education levels and labor hazards. These statistics have been the backbone of arguments to tear down the city's "eyesore" and replace it with shining towers of pride. The redevelopment plans rarely seek to understand the social fabric woven among the house-of-cards shanties stacked tightly in this one-kilometer space.

Recently, though, more creative platforms have emerged to tell the stories inside Mumbai's best-known slum. The projects aim to give a voice and an outlet to the people of Dharavi to express their needs, concerns, and realities, as well as their hopes and dreams. Art is a powerful means for educating the local community and for creatively bringing private struggles — health battles that might happen inside one's home, for example — to a very visible place.

Ghar Pe: "At Home"

Earlier this year, the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) launched a new arts initiative called Dekha Andekha (Seen Unseen): Conversations about Art and Health in Urban India. The initiative's goal is to creatively engage the city's urban poor to discuss issues such as water, sanitation, and maternal and neonatal care. The exhibits — all of which are created by residents themselves — build on SNEHA's 10 years of research and interventions in the slums of Mumbai.

Various media — painting, photography, ceramics — have been used to bring to life concerns of Dharavi's residents and engage a wider audience on these pressing issues. For the launch of SNEHA's first exhibit, a converted second-floor informal structure in the heart of Dharavi hosted Ghar Pe (At Home), featuring common household items overlaid artistically with expressions of the many health risks and concerns faced daily by the female artists and their families. Colorful photographs pressed over dish racks, doors, and housing materials manifested the desire for clean water — in many of the slums, the only access to water is from a centrally located tap that functions just one or two hours per day. In another part of the exhibit, large strainers with micro-organisms cross-stitched on them were signs of the unhygienic environments in some slum kitchens.

Mentor-artists worked with the local women for months leading up the exhibit's launch. Future exhibits are being planned, and the organization is holding ongoing courses in photography, drawing, and textiles. In one photography workshop, women are exploring the lives and health conditions of pregnant women and the elderly. One of the workshop attendees, Zarina Khan, 28, is a social worker against domestic violence. Khan, who has been participating in the photography workshops, considers the camera a "tool of power" as well as a means of documentation. Khan and the other artists working with Dekha Andekha are using art to share with the world the daily difficulties they face just to survive; through that art, they hope to influence the world around them.

The Beehive

Another project — the "Beehive," created by Artefacting Mumbai, a collaborative of international artists and urbanists — sought to raise awareness about life inside the 13th Compound, Dharavi's recycling district. The multimedia exhibit launched in January 2011 mixed video, site-specific art installations, sculptures, photography, and public art. The idea was to show Dharavi as "Beehive of Humanity," says Alex White Mazzarella, an American urban planner-turned-artist who spent three months in the slum bringing the project to life. He worked with Casey Nolan, a videographer, and Arne, a photographer, and was supported locally in Mumbai by the ACORN Foundation's Dharavi Project.

In Mumbai, the group began by holding art and photography classes that were "overflowing." It was important to the artists to involve the community and show them how art could be used as a tool of expression. Residents helped in designing murals and gave the artists materials (often taken straight from the recycling area) to turn into art. After seeing the initial positive reaction to installations in a few of the recyclers' small workspaces, more recyclers stepped forward to volunteer.

The art and documentation in the recycling compound "aimed to counter damaging and marginalizing stigmas directed towards Dharavi." The group saw the "Artefacting Mumbai" project as an opportunity to raise awareness about life inside the narrow bylanes and, perhaps, change stereotypes and outsiders' perspectives, both within the city and internationally. More than 500 visitors came to Dharavi to walk through the exhibit, experiencing both the art and the local community.

"In Dharavi, this project is an intervention, cultural exchange, and celebration at once," says Mazzarrella in a Sunday Guardian interview. "We are really experimenting with how much art can function as cultural diplomacy, and how it can build knowledge and tolerance by bringing people from different sides of the spectrum (like us outsiders and Dharavians) together."

Mazzarella has taken the Artefacting initiative to other places around the world, all with the goal of "working to show how issues such as class, oppression, and cultural loss are interconnected worldwide phenomena that can actually bring people together."

Images from Ghar Pe

Image 1: Dekha Andekha's goal is to use art as a medium to incite citywide discussions on public health concerns.

Images 2 and 3: The images on the dishes tell a tale of desire for clean drinking water.

Image 4: Corrugated tin, used to create slum housing, colorfully tells residents' stories.

Image 5: The water storage bins and images emphasize the need for proper containers to maintain quality.

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community ManagerMengubah Jakarta: Desain demi desain,
seni demi seni

Julisa Tambunan, Jakarta Community Manager

Banyak yang menganggap warga kelas menengah Jakarta hidup dalam gelembung besar, tidak pernah melihat "ke bawah" dan sibuk mendominasi Twitter dengan keluh kesah tentang macet. Kelompok desainer dan seniman di Jakarta tak setuju. Berikut cuplikan cerita tentang Enrico Halim dengan gerakan aikon-nya serta Ade Darmawan dengan Ruang Rupa dan Indonesian Street Art Database-nya, yang berusaha mengubah Jakarta lewat desain dan seni.

Ketidakpedulian Massal?

Warga Jakarta memproduksi 9 juta tweet setiap harinya, membuat kota ini dibaptis menjadi ibukota negara Twitter di dunia. Hal ini, tentunya, hasil curahan hati warga kelas menengah ke atas, yang punya akses hampir tak terbatas terhadap teknologi informasi dan komunikasi. Karena didominasi satu golongan saja, barisan kalimat yang terdiri dari 140 karakter ini pun tak dapat dikatakan sebagai curahan hati warga Jakarta yang sebenarnya.

Ditambah lagi, dari 9 juta tweet ini, tak banyak yang ditujukan untuk membuat Jakarta menjadi kota yang lebih inklusif. Hanya sebagian kecil yang menggunakan media ini untuk mengekspresikan kritik konstruktif dan solutif. Alih-alih solutif, warga kelas menengah pun akhirnya jadi saling menyerang satu sama lain. Hashtag #kelasmenengahngehe mulai banyak terlihat belakangan ini. Semakin sah-lah tuduhan banyak pihak bahwa warga kelas menengah tidak peduli pada kota ini, dan sibuk hidup dalam gelembungnya.

Benarkah demikian? Coba alihkan pandangan sebentar dari layar telepon seluler Anda dan lihat ke sekeliling. Kelompok desainer dan seniman muda Jakarta, yang juga datang dari kelas menengah, tengah beraksi memanfaatkan kapasitas yang mereka punya untuk menciptakan perubahan sosial bagi kota ini.

Merancang untuk perbaikan

Adalah Enrico Halim, seorang desainer yang percaya bahwa karya yang ia buat dapat menciptakan perubahan yang kita impikan. Enrico memulai gerakannya di tahun 1994, ketika Indonesia masih berada di bawah regime diktator Orde Baru. "Saat itu, semua media dikontrol pemerintah. Kami menawarkan media alternatif yang bebas politis, murni bagi anak muda mengekspresikan diri lewat desain ataupun seni.". Terbitlah aikon, media cetak yang disebarkan secara gratis untuk menampung ide-ide segar dari berbagai pihak untuk membuat Jakarta, dan Indonesia, menjadi lebih baik. "Tujuan utama aikon adalah untuk keterbukaan berpikir. Semakin besar akses ke informasi yang bermutu, semakin terbuka pikiran orang."

Sejak itu, aikon pun kerap menaungi dan mefasilitasi sejumlah kegiatan sosial berbasis desain yang idenya datang dari masyarakat, seperti Pagi (Pakai Lagi), Gelar Kebon, Warga Peduli Bangunan Tua, dan yang terbaru, Revitalisasi Bemo. Revitalisasi Bemo adalah kegiatan menyulap kendaraan tua berroda tiga tersebut supaya layak pakai lagi serta ramah lingkungan, sehingga pengemudinya tak kehilangan penghasilan karena peemerintah kota Jakarta memutuskan untuk menghapus bemo dari bumi Jakarta. "Kami perbaiki supaya punya nilai tambah, dan bisa beroperasi sepanjang Cikago (Cikini, Kalipasir, Gondangdia)."

Aikon sendiri adalah gerakan yang murni non-profit, dengan kucuran dana dari aikon design, sebuah usaha yang didirikan memang untuk membiayai kegiatan-kegiatan sosial aikon. "Apa namanya? Social Enterprise ya?" tanya Enrico dengan sederhana.

Ekspresi seni bernilai sosial

Ade Darmawan percaya bahwa seniman punya peran khusus yang bisa dimainkan di dalam masyarakat. Dengan bekal ini, bersama dengan sejumlah rekan, ia pun mendirikan Ruang Rupa, sebuah organisasi yang berfokus pada seni dan hubungannya dengan konteks sosial budaya, khususnya di perkotaan. Ruang Rupa menggalang berbagai kegiatan seperti pameran, proyek-proyek seni, lokakarya, serta publikasi lain. "Terlalu banyak berita negatif, harus ada yang menceritakan hal positif, dan ini bisa dilakukan lewat seni," ungkapnya. Proyek terkini dari Ruang Rupa adalah jakarta32°, gabungan eksibisi dan lokakarya mengenai manfaat seni di ruang publik.

Ade juga banyak terlibat dalam kegiatan yang diselenggarakan oleh Indonesian Street Art Database, seperti gerakan "Berbeda dan Merdeka 100%" yang menyuarakan keinginan untuk hidup berdampingan dengan damai melalui seni. Akhir-akhir ini, Jakarta memang banyak dirundung perselisihan antar umat beragama. Ketertarikan Ade pada street art atau seni jalanan sudah menahun. Menurutnya, street art dapat menjadi media untuk mengungkapkan pernyataan sosial politik lewat ruang publik kota. "Street art harus punya pesan yang disampaikan, tak hanya untuk terlihat indah.". Ade percaya bahwa seni harus bisa dinikmati oleh seluruh lapusan masyarakat, dan bukan hanya milik orang-orang yang pergi ke galeri. "Yang dibangun adalah spirit-nya, bukan street-nya", lanjutnya.

Dalam proyek Indonesian Street Art Database, ia dan rekan-rekannya tengah membangun sebuah infrastruktur yang berfungsi sebagai basis produksi pengetahun tentang kebudayan urban dalam kontek yang luas, baik bagi penggiat street art maupun seluruh masyarakat.

Isu keberlanjutan

Seperti biasa, sustainability atau keberlanjutan selalu jadi isu utama saat bicara tentang sebuah proyek sosial, namun Enrico mengaku tak memikirkan hal tersebut. "Selama masih ada kebutuhan, dan kegiatannya menyenangkan, apalagi menghasilkan, pastinya akan berlanjut,". Enrico mengaku ia melakukan semua ini karena tak ingin anak-anaknya harus melalui segala diskriminasi yang ia alami di kota ini. Karenanya, ia melakukan advokasi dari bawah, dan tidak pusing dengan segala birokrasi pemerintah. "Kami melakukan ini untuk negeri, bukan untuk negara," ujarnya. Baginya, desain harus punya nilai solutif, itulah yang membedakannya dengan seni murni untuk estetika belaka. Seperti proyek bio-bemo yang tengah berjalan sekarang ini, ia mendesain kanvas bemo yang bisa dipasang iklan berjalan, dengan interior dalam yang bisa digunakan sebagai ruang bermain anak-anak. "Tapi solusi apa yang ditawarkan dan untuk siapa, itu yang harus dipikirkan lebih lanjut." Baginya, aikon bukan organisasi, namun jaringan. "Ini punya publik, kami lintas sektor, siapapun bisa kontribusi," tutupya.

Sementara itu, untuk tim Indonesian Street Art Database , tolok ukur keberhasilan sederhana saja. Dengan bertemunya para penggiat dan peminat street di Indonesia dan terkumpulnya data serta informasi seni yang bisa digunakan sebagai sumber produksi pengetahuan. Karena semakin banyak orang yang tahu, semakin besar kemungkinan menuju perubahan.

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerArte urbano en la Cd. de México, la expresión del barrio de Tepito

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

En México es lugar común afirmar que el quebrantamiento del tejido social es la principal causa de los altos índices delictivos que aquejan algunas zonas del país. En este sentido, académicos, organizaciones de la sociedad civil y el sector privado coinciden en que si bien lo importante es el respeto irrestricto al Estado de derecho para devolver la tranquilidad y la seguridad a las calles, la mera aplicación de la ley no basta para mitigar los efectos de años de prácticas políticas negligentes, ineficientes y corrosivas para el desarrollo humano de la sociedad mexicana.

Así, a la par de reformas al sistema judicial, educativo y laboral, que México necesita, es imprescindible elaborar políticas que permitan a los ciudadanos ser partícipes de su propios derechos al tiempo que les permita asumirse en un sistema que premie a quien cumpla con sus obligaciones.

Son diversas las propuestas hechas para reconstruir el tejido social, todas provenientes de diversos actores y con diversas perspectivas, aunque no por ello mutuamente excluyentes. Sin embargo, todas tienen una característica en común: resaltar la urgencia de recuperar espacios públicos para el uso de la comunidad y con ello crear espacios para desarrollar actividades artísticas, deportivas y culturales que contribuyan a su desarrollo. El Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA), en todos los programas y actividades culturales a su cargo resalta la importancia y el impacto del arte sobre la sociedad como una estrategia de reconstrucción social.

El arte, además de ser una válvula de escape a la dura realidad mexicana, es una actividad que debe abordarse desde un punto de vista metodológico y empírico ya que, además de todas las formas que puede adquirir, es una herramienta que crea capital social y humano que permite a su vez articular relaciones de confianza, cooperación y participación locales.

Lo anterior se traduce, en palabras de Miguel Ángel Márquez Zárate, investigador del Centro de Estudios en Administración Pública de la Facultad de Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), en vínculos de confianza y reciprocidad entre individuos socializados que se identifican en una colectividad. Además, el arte también funge como un activo que crea nexos económicos y logra acciones cooperativas en beneficio de la comunidad.

La expresión artística más palpable en la actualidad es la urbana. México es un gran exponente artístico de esta corriente y, obedeciendo a su tiempo, lugar y propósito, poco a poco se ha ido abriendo espacios en circuitos artísticos nacionales y conjuntando esfuerzos de autoridades culturales, organizaciones de la sociedad civil e inclusive académicos para innovar en proyectos que rompan los ciclos de violencia y permitan ser un sitio de ingenio y producción.

Arte en el barrio de Tepito, Galería José María Velasco

Como un espacio dedicado enteramente al arte en sus más variadas expresiones, el Palacio de Bellas Artes ha sido siempre la institución de referencia en el que cualquier artista busca exponer su obra.

Perteneciente a esta institución, la Galería José María Velasco fue fundada en septiembre de 1951 por el Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, y se ubica en el barrio de Tepito, uno de los más populares de la Ciudad de México, aunque también uno de los más peligrosos. Creada en conjunto con otras tres galerías populares distribuidas en distintos puntos del Distrito Federal, su objetivo es romper con los esquemas tradicionales de distribución y exhibición de artes populares en el marco de un programa de descentralización de la cultura e interacción con la comunidad.

Haberla instalada en Tepito supone además el acercamiento del arte a una comunidad tradicionalmente marginada a él. Específicamente, las artes plásticas y eventos culturales como conciertos y exposiciones temporales, ofrecen a la comunidad circundante propuestas artísticas de calidad a los que de otra manera no tendrían acceso. Asimismo, se realizan conferencias, talleres de artes plásticas, visitas guiadas y actividades infantiles.

Las exposiciones, aunque no permanentes, están montadas para ofrecer un panorama de las tendencias del arte mexicano contemporáneo en todas sus expresiones: pintura, grabado, escultura, arte popular, etc. Además, la mayoría de las muestras en exhibición son principalmente de artistas mexicanos en activo vinculados a las expresiones culturales urbanas contemporáneas.

Según estudios realizados por las instituciones culturales más importantes del país, como el Centro Nacional de las Artes o la Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas de la UNAM, la galería no sólo ha sido espacio para que los artistas puedan dar a conocer su obra, sino que además ha sido un reflejo de los cambios en las políticas culturales del país a lo largo de los años y de las distintas administraciones.

En este sentido, los primeros años que abrió sus puertas al público, la galería tuvo desde obras de grandes del arte mexicano como David Alfaro Siqueiros hasta muestras pictóricas infantiles. La diversidad en su oferta cultural se debe a que sus dirigentes tienen la consigna de ir al encuentro de los artistas y que éstos exhiban su obra en la galería, sobre todo considerando que muchos de ellos no prestan sus obras para que las clases populares puedan acercarse a ellas.

Actualmente, la galería se encarga de darle promoción a jóvenes con cualidades artísticas y estéticas, sobre todo a los que pertenezcan al barrio de Tepito, y de mantener su estatus como lugar de apertura a las más diversas manifestaciones artísticas, desde artesanía plástica hasta grafitti, siendo así un auténtico espacio de difusión y recepción de arte contemporáneo.

En el llamado barrio bravo de Tepito, el arte encarna la creatividad de la comunidad. Además de las actividades en la Galería, a unas cuadras del Metro Tepito se organizan los Martes de Arte de Tepito, en el cual se promueve la interacción de la comunidad con el arte, en palabras del organizador Luis Arévalo, afirma que la cultura es un mecanismo imprescindible de resistencia ante las problemáticas sociales y los embates externos a un barrio que siempre ha vivido la luchas de intereses económicos debido a su economía local informal.

En este sentido, ¿es posible que la vinculación comunitaria a través del arte, genere los lazos sociales necesarios para la promoción de un mejor bienestar para la población? ¿Qué proyectos son posibles de escalar en los barrios para mejorar las condiciones de vida a través del arte?

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerMuseu de Favela: Um território de arte e memórias

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

O Museu de Favela (MUF) é uma associação privada sem fins lucrativos, de interesse cultural e comunitário que atua no museu territorial integral formado pelas favelas Pavão, Pavãozinho e Cantagalo. Desde sua criação em 2008 o MUF desenvolve processos museais experimentais de modos de trabalho inusitados, plantando novos paradigmas no campo da museologia social brasileira.

A visão de futuro é transformar o morro de Pavão, Pavãozinho e Cantagalo em Monumento Turístico Carioca da História de Formação de Favelas, das Origens Culturais do Samba, da Cultura do Migrante Nordestino, da Cultura Negra, de Artes Visuais e Dança. A missão do MUF é realizar tal visão de futuro, transformadora de condições de vida local, através da cultura, e demonstrar que a solução de inclusão funcional urbana e socioeconômica sustentável de favelas deve partir de dentro delas. Essa missão é o macro-objetivo de todos os projetos do MUF.

O MUF possui corajoso caráter experimentalista. Os gestores, por serem maioria residentes em favela, também se qualificam como público-alvo das transformações sociais positivas almejadas e por eles próprios produzidas. Seus dirigentes lutam por cidadania e consideração social através do museu. O Colegiado de Diretores do MUF empreende um plano estratégico e museológico para expressar a cultura, as memórias e os modos de vida em favela, valorizar a identidade coletiva, promover a autoestima do morador e a sua inclusão social e econômica, tendo a cultura local como matéria prima.

O MUF está localizado no Maciço do Cantagalo, elevação que se destaca entre os bairros famosos da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro — Ipanema e Copacabana — é de privilegiada centralidade urbana e turística. Dele se avistam paisagens notáveis desta Cidade Patrimônio Mundial de Paisagem Urbana. A população local é estimada em torno de 20 mil moradores. São mais de cinco mil imóveis distribuídos em 12 hectares, com alta densidade construída e demográfica, típica de favelas centrais. O MUF aí atua para reintegrar, para reunir e revelar, em modos museológicos, a mais que centenária cultura local.

As "escavações" culturais que o MUF vem fazendo no território para recomposição da memória coletiva confirmam notável riqueza histórica, imensa diversidade cultural e virtuosos talentos criativos: confirmam disponibilidade de capacidades, competências, potências de vontades.

Os princípios de atuação do MUF são:

  • Patrimônio cultural: processo que afirma identidade coletiva e cidadania.
  • Inseparável: patrimônio + indivíduo + lugar.
  • O que vem primeiro? A prática social em defesa da memória coletiva, identidade e cultura. Depois, os acervos.
  • Papel central do interesse da comunidade nos destinos do museu.
  • Museu: instrumento de mudança social e estruturante do desenvolvimento sustentável.
  • Centro Cultural de Referência em Favelas, com Função Educativa, Inventariante e Multiplicadora.

Nos planos do museu estão quatro grandes metas: Instalar sete portais de acesso, quatro bases operacionais, três circuitos a céu aberto de visitação e um calendário anual de eventos e itinerâncias de acervos que o museu vai adquirindo em pesquisas de memórias e talentos junto aos moradores.

Os portais tem a função de demarcar todas as entradas existentes ao território cultural da favela. O MUF já instalou 3 portais, executados por moradores construtores e artistas, com grande dificuldade de recursos para sua manutenção periódica.

Os circuitos são desenhados para atravessar as três favelas e assim beneficiar um maior número de moradores, num grande arranjo produtivo linear de negócios criativos potenciais. Os circuitos a céu aberto equivalem às galerias de exposições permanentes num museu tradicional.

O Circuito de Baixo, ou Circuito das Casas-Tela começou a ser implantado em 2009. Já exibe 27 obras de arte sobre memórias da vida no território. Foram reunidos 25 artistas para a execução das pinturas. O MUF vai lançar brevemente um livro sobre esse circuito pioneiro intitulado "Circuito das Casas-Tela, Caminhos de Vida no Museu de Favela".

O Circuito do Alto está em fase de estudos e projetos, a ser concluída até abril de 2013, e o Circuito do Meio está apenas planejado, com esboços iniciais de esculturas monumentais de tipos da favela criados por artistas da comunidade.

Como o território é vasto, labiríntico e muito adensado de construções, a comunicação interna das ações sociais do museu é um grande desafio e demanda um espalhamento de bases operacionais, de forma a alcançar um maior número de moradores. A Base 1, Cantagalo, é a única instalada até o momento. As demais estão projetadas e o MUF busca parceiros para a sua construção.

Finalmente, nas estratégias de musealização do MUF há o Calendário Anual de Eventos e Itinerâncias de seus acervos, em modos diversos: exposições, filmes, oficinas culturais, festivais, entre outros. Equivale às exposições de curta duração num museu tradicional. Ao circular com os registros de memórias o MUF valoriza a identidade coletiva e a autoestima do morador da favela.

Artigo desenvolvido pela Diretoria do Museu de Favela
Organizado por Kátia Loureiro

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