BY JOE MARVILLI
If you are on the Queens College campus and walk up the quad towards Cooperman Plaza and Rosenthal Library, you will notice a miniature city rising out of the ground. This work is the first display of Projecto Morrinho in America.
As part of the college’s Year of Brazil, visiting Brazilian artisans have built the first U.S. installation of the morrinho, which is Portuguese for “little hill.” The project is a miniature recreation of a favela, a Brazilian shanty town.
The project was started by favela teens in the Laranjeiras neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in 1998, as a means of play and an escape from the realities of violence and corruption surrounding their community. Since then, it has transformed into a social and cultural project that raises awareness about favela life.
“We started this only to play. We didn’t have ideas to show this for people to see,” Raniere Dias, one of the artisans, said. “Now, we are showing our work because it’s our reality.”
Built over the past three weeks, the installation is meant to start a dialogue between the artisans and students on how the project is helping to challenge the perception of favelas. Often, in fictional media, the favelas are depicted as full of drugs and crime. This project shows it is actually a community like anywhere else, with families living their daily lives.
“Favelas are not only drugs, guns, crime. There are other sides,” Dias added. “If they go to Rio de Janeiro, they should go to favelas. It’s very beautiful.”
Professor John Collins, director of the Latin American and Latino Studies program, hosted the artisans and helped to bring them to Queens College. While the morrinho has been built in several major cities and countries such as Venice, Paris, Barcelona, Austria and Germany, Dias said they always wanted to come to New York.
“We always thought maybe one day we can do this in New York,” he said. “This was our dream, to show this in New York.”
Two more installations have been built outside Queens College’s science building.
Some Queens College students were also involved in building the project, helping out with the painting and some of the construction.
“I love it. They’re very friendly and the project itself is really cool,” anthropology major Monica Awad said.
“It’s really interesting being able to interact with people from such a different culture,” anthropology minor Peter Himmelman added.
“We are diverse, that’s what we’re known for,” Mohshin Chowdhury, an anthropology major said. “It’s nice to have a landmark structure that symbolizes that.”
The official opening ceremony of the project took place on Sept. 18.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.