Rocinha’s forgotten history

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In 1885, Franco-Brazilian photographer Marc Ferrez took a black & white photo of Pedra da Gávea that captures the almost untouched scenery of the vegetation. Exactly 130 years later, a team from the Instituto Moreira Salles and the Sankofa Museum climbed to the same spot using geolocation and the help of residents. This time, a new scenario: in addition to the buildings in São Conrado, there were numerous constructions from Brazil’s largest favela – Rocinha.

The ‘rephotograph’ is part of the Memória Rocinha project. For two years, a team from both institutions walked through the streets and alleys of the favela and surrounding regions, from Alto da Boa Vista to Ipanema, searching for connections between the past and present. In this way, the team reconnected with the era of the Quebra-Cangalha Farm, that extended through the entire region where Rocinha is today, bordering Quilombo das Camélias, in Alto Leblon. An old road bearing the same name still exists, and would have witnessed the passage of the Royal Family. On the Estrada da Gávea, they relived stories of the “baratinhas”, motor racing events that took place in the 1930s.

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The ‘rephotographs’ were made from 23 images from the IMS collection. “Our archive is very vast, from the nineteenth century til now. We can compare the natural landscape with the cultural landscape and see the transformation. That would be more difficult in São Paulo, for example, because it has no natural landmarks,” said Denise Grinspum, an education coordinator at IMS.

On the way, interviews with residents helped build an ’emotional’ map with the favela’s most important places. “Rocinha is not on any map. On Google, few streets are shown. We wanted to take away the invisibility that most favelas have, so that people can get to know Rocinha and see that it’s also part of the city,” said Ana Luiza Abreu, IMS’s Social Action supervisor.

The Memória Rocinha site will go live this Friday (March 17th, coinciding with a launch event put on by the IMS), and should continue to be fed with the help of residents, who can send photos of the favela through Instagram. “Reconnecting to our history is important due to the question of identity, linked to the preservation of our rights and our citizenship,” said Antonio Carlos Firmino, one of the founders of the Sankofa Museum. – Source (PT)

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