Research as Art

Picture: Santa Marta Favela, Rio de Janeiro 

Colour is an important feature of urban life. The painting of sections of Rio de Janeiro’s southern zone favelas in recent years is testament to the importance of colour for improving residential life. However, whilst international artists have enabled favela residents to paint their dwellings through fund-raising initiatives, and even gained sponsorship from companies such as Coral to supply the paint, the painting has a hidden purpose beyond the merely decorative. Only a rendered dwelling can be painted, and whilst plastering a dwelling is a significant functional improvement because it serves as a barrier to water, it also lends a certain identity, permanence and legitimacy to dwellings that are classified as illegal constructions. Indeed, community house painting initiatives serve as a form of resistance for favela neighbourhoods and communities which – having been pacified by the police ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games – are especially vulnerable to the desires of property developers and the processes of gentrification because of their prime locations which invariably overlook, and are proximate to, Rio’s most famous beaches and landmarks.

 David Hastie, (Director of Art Across the City and LOCWS International)  selected this entry as the winner of the ‘illumination’ award category…“

"Richard Smith's image captures the spirit of resistance of the favela neighbourhood; the colourful painting may appear as making a visual improvement to the makeshift houses but more importantly it is a bold statement about the collective resistance against prospective new developments that would see its inhabitants displaced.  The viewer cannot help but share in the optimism and community spirit that the scene conveys.”