Women Are Heroes, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Moro de Providencia is a place of which the name has become synonymous for violence in Rio de Janeiro. However the reason this favela located in the center of Rio appeared on television screens in August 2008 wasn’t the regular scenes of clashes between drug dealers and the police but to present the art exhibition Women.
In order to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism, JR pasted huge photos of the faces and eyes of local women all over the outside of the favela, suddenly giving a female gaze to both the hill and the favela.
“The inhabitants have got a real buzz out of the project. On our last day, they threw a little party before we left. Even the big tough guys of the favela, with guns and bullet-proof vests, were sad to see us go”
It has to be said that he arrived at an interesting time: a few weeks before, some soldiers captured three young people from Providencia and handed them over to drug dealers from another favela who executed them and cut them into pieces.
Benedita Florencio Monteiro
“I’m 68 years old. I was born in Fortaleza and I wasn’t even twenty when I arrived here. I got married, then became a widow after my husband died when I was 35. I’ve been all alone ever since. I had five children, all of them married.
There was that tragedy when my grandson died. They killed him. He was living with me. He was twenty-four years old. The army was on the square when he came back from the funk dance, and they asked him to lift up his shirt. When he refused they grabbed him and took him away with two others to the Mineira favela, which is controlled by rival dealers.
They did it out of sheer meanness. He used to go by there every day on his way to school, and everyone here knew him. Everyone who was on the square saw it. They betrayed them for sixty Reais. Then they killed them down there. They cut them up in pieces and threw them into the trash bin. They vandalized them. They not only cut them up, but they also shot my grandson in the face five times. He was studying. He was about to get his degree. We want peace and justice here. My dream is to buy a house somewhere else and leave this place.”
“Of course, we’re not going to change the favela. Life will very quickly go back to what it was before, like after a murder or when the army has been in, but I hope we have opened up a new perspective. I am sure that new initiatives will appear”, says JR who, to convince himself, repeats phrases he has heard in the favela. Like the words of a teenager he met when he arrived, who told him “I prefer to live for a year like a king than a hundred years as a slave” and those of another teenager, the day he was leaving, who said “with a bullet, you can get one man, with a photo, you can get a hundred”.