Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘brazil’

Photo: Reuters.
An inmate reads the Bible in prison, where she and fellow inmates have access to a small library as part of a La Paz, Bolivia, program to spread literacy and offer the chance to get out of jail earlier.

Sharing stories like today’s, I can see why someone could accuse me of being a Pollyanna. But it’s not that I think people convicted of crimes will be completely transformed if shown a little kindness. It’s more that I see no harm in testing how small kindnesses might add up, especially for people who may have experienced few kindnesses.

In 2017, Philip Reeves at National Public Radio conducted an interview in a Brazil prison about a program that Bolivia is now testing.

“Brazil’s prisons are dangerous places,” Reeves, noted, “blighted by overcrowding and drug gangs. But literacy is offering a way to shorten some inmates’ sentences: Read books, reduce your time behind bars. …

“REEVES: About 30 men are sitting behind desks in a classroom. They’re writing with pens and paper. The teacher is standing up front issuing instructions. … We could be in any school anywhere but for a couple of details. One, a wall of iron bars separates the teacher from her class. Two, the paper each man’s writing could win him a little bit of his life back. … These are inmates in a giant penitentiary in southern Brazil called the Casa de Custodia de Piraquara. …

“MARILDA DE PAULA SOARES: (Through interpreter) I am an educator. I really believe people can change.

“REEVES: Marilda de Paula Soares is the class teacher. Her students are participating in a project pioneered by the southern Brazilian state of Parana. Prisoners get four days lopped off their sentences for each book they read. To get those days of freedom, they must write a short paper about the book. They’re doing that now. Soares says each prisoner’s paper must explain …

“SOARES: (Through interpreter) … what’s caught their eye, a specific character, the language, the theme …

“REEVES: … in sufficient detail to ensure that cheating is … impossible. Douglas Seixas, an inmate here, says it’s true. You really can’t skip the reading. …

“SEIXAS: Because we need to read a book to understand. If you not read the book, no, no way.

“REEVES: Only certain books qualify under the reading program, including foreign and Brazilian classics and kids’ books for prisoners learning to read. Books with very violent themes are banned. … There’s a maximum of 12 books a year. That adds up to a month and a half remission. Admilson Rodrigues is doing 10 years for drug trafficking but is steadily whittling down his sentence by reading. … Rodrigues said he loved Gone With The Wind and also Les Miserables. Les Miserables seems particularly popular here. Rodrigues believes that’s because it’s about an ex-con who’s trying to create a new life on the outside. …

“REEVES: Is this project window dressing by Brazilian officials? Are they trying to put a gloss on a dysfunctional penal system where inmates sometimes wait years before being tried? It’s hard to know. Yet, prisoners here do seem to be benefiting. Edson Reinehr says he’s on his fourth book, which is about the adventures of Mowgli the wolf boy.

“EDSON REINEHR: Helps a lot because to keep the mind — occupied mind inside the cell instead of thinking about other bad things.

“REEVES: Staff here say the project’s about much more than just helping prisoners pass the time and get a little remission. Teacher Agda Ultchak says it’s about fundamentally changing lives.

“AGDA ULTCHAK: (Through interpreter) We hope to create a new perspective on life for them. This is about acquiring knowledge and culture and being able to join another universe.”

Meanwhile, at Reuters, Monica Machicao reports on a version of the program that was launched recently in Bolivia.

“The state program ‘Books Behind Bars’ offers detainees a chance get out of jail days or weeks in advance of their release date.

Bolivia does not have a life sentence or death penalty, but pre-trial detention can last for many years due to a slow judicial system.

“The program has been launched in 47 prisons that do not have resources to pay for education, reintegration or social assistance programs for prisoners, the Andean country’s Ombudsman’s Office says.

“So far, 865 inmates are sifting through prose, improving their reading and writing skills. One of them is Jaqueline, who has already read eight books in a year and has passed four reading tests.

” ‘It is really hard for people like us who have no income and who do not have family outside,’ she said. ‘There are people here, for example, who are just learning how to read and write.’ …

“With a daily salary of 8 bolivianos ($1.18), incarcerated Bolivians are forced to work to be able to eat and pay the high court costs to be released. The country’s prisons and jails have long suffered from overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, with some detainees staging protests over the lack of health care, according to Human Rights Watch. …

“Said Mildred, an inmate at the Obrajes women’s prison in the highland city of La Paz, ‘When I read, I am in contact with the whole universe. The walls and bars disappear.’ “

More on Brazil’s program at NPR, here, and on Bolivia’s at Reuters, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Raphael Alves via Washington Post.
Bored during Covid, an indigenous Brazilian girl started sharing her culture on TikTok, where she is Cunhaporanga_oficial.

Maybe I don’t follow all the right news outlets, but I hear about way more TikTok stories that are positive than negative. Today we learn that a 22-year-old from an indigenous tribe in the Amazon is teaching the world about her culture through playful TikTok posts [Cunhaporanga_oficial].

Terrence McCoy reported at the Washington Post, “In the middle of the Amazon forest, along the banks of the Rio Negro, a young woman in face paint was bored. The coronavirus pandemic had cut off the flow of visitors, further isolating this Indigenous village, accessible only by boat. So Cunhaporanga Tatuyo, 22, was passing her days, phone in hand, trying to learn the ways of TikTok.

“She danced to songs, dubbed videos, wildly distorted her appearance — the full TikTok experience. None of it found much of an audience.

“Then she held up a wriggly, thick beetle larva to the camera.

‘People ask, “Cunhaporanga, is it true that you really eat larva?” ‘

“ ‘Of course we eat them! Do you want to see?’

“The bug met its end (‘Mmmhhh,’ Cunhaporanga said), and a new viral star was born — streaming from the most remote of locations. Cunhaporanga’s home is a cluster of thatched-roof huts along the river’s edge, surrounded by nothing but Amazon jungle. The dozens of residents who live here are fellow members of the Tatuyo people. They paint their faces in bright red, wear elaborate feathered headdresses, live alongside squawking macaws that Cunhaporanga warns should not be mistaken for pets, and survive off whatever they can grow or catch.

“All of it is now a vivid backdrop for what has become one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing social media presences in Brazil. In little more than 18 months, Cunhaporanga has collected over 6 million TikTok followers, simply by showing scenes from her everyday life. To her, the activities she posted were unremarkable. But for her growing audience,they brought into sudden intimacy a world that could not have seemed more distant.

“Cunhaporanga offering a bowl of larvae to her family to eat: 6.7 million views. Cunhaporanga brandishing a tool used to make cassava flour: 16.1 million views. Cunhaporanga dancing on the pristine banks of the river — it’s still TikTok, after all — to a viral pop song: 4.1 million views.

“As social media reaches into the Amazon rainforest, one of digital media’s final frontiers, it is opening an unprecedented window into Indigenous life, clearing away the barriers once imposed by geography. For the first time, some of the planet’s most isolated peoples are in daily communication with the outside world without the traditional filters of journalists, academics or advocates.

“ ‘This is an important opportunity,’ said Beto Marubo, a member of the Marubo people, whose village just got the Internet and is already going viral. ‘The Brazilian people don’t know Indigenous people, and from this lack of information has come all sorts of terrible stereotypes like Indigenous people are lazy or indolent or unhappy.’

“The digitalization of Indigenous life is now colliding with some of Brazil’s most powerful political currents. President Jair Bolsonaro rose to power lamenting the size of Indigenous territories and advocating that they be opened up to business interests. … ‘Indians don’t speak our language, don’t have money, don’t have culture,’ Bolsonaro said in 2015 as he publicly plotted a run for the presidency. … ‘How did they come to have 13 percent of the national territory?’

“On one slice of that Indigenous land last month, Cunhaporanga — who speaks flawless Portuguese and considers herself to be fully Brazilian — was walking in the sun, TikTok on her mind. She wanted to continue to show her people’s culture but didn’t know how long she’d be able to. …

“ ‘It’s really expensive,’ she said, still unsure about how to earn much on a platform that’s often difficult to monetize. Some followers have donated a few bucks here and there, but not much. …

“She knows larvae are viral gold. Nearly every video of the squirmy little critters, which are harvested from an Amazonian palm tree and allegedly taste like coconut, brings in millions of views. But when she published that first video, they were, to her, just everyday food — as basic as flour or fish.

“She was stunned by the response: Within hours of the video’s posting, more than a million people had watched.”

More at the Post, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Marcio De Assis via GoodNewsNetwork.
Brazilian piano maestro João Carlos Martins was deeply moved when new bionic hands enabled him to return to the keyboard.

Well, here’s some uplift for a November Monday. It concerns a Brazilian pianist who had to switch to conducting when disease and injury crippled his hands. Twenty years later, a designer tried to get in touch with the famed musician “on various platforms.” If you’ve ever tried to reach a famous person that way, you’ll appreciate the designer’s persistence.

Gabriella Paiella at GQ wrote, “Over the years, fate seemed to do all that it could to stop João Carlos Martins from playing the piano.

“It started in the 1950s, when he was 18. Something called focal dystonia. … The brain misfires and causes involuntary muscle spasms, which was mighty inconvenient for a young Brazilian piano prodigy on the precipice of world fame.

“He managed to get it under control and, by his early 20s, landed in New York City. Martins had it made back then: a tony apartment across the street from the Met, celebrated performances at Carnegie Hall and virtually every other major theater around the globe. They even had a nickname for him, the Mailman, because he always delivered. To relax, Martins would take leisurely strolls around Central Park, where sometimes he’d see his neighbor Jackie Kennedy. He played pickup soccer in the park too.

“Then one day, while chasing after the ball, he tripped.

“In the seconds between losing his footing and hitting the ground, there hung countless permutations for how skin and bone could collide with earth and inflict damage. The outcome: right elbow, sharp rock, a sliced ulnar nerve. Martins knew he was in trouble when the blood started spurting out. He knew he was really in trouble when, in the coming months, his fingers started to atrophy. And when his fingers started to atrophy, he thought about killing himself.

“Martins kept going, though his skills as a pianist were diminished. He even embarked on a decades-long quest to record the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1995, at the age of 54, he traveled 6,000 miles from his then home in Brazil to tape in this one theater in Sofia, Bulgaria, with great acoustics. He was walking back to his hotel late at night when two muggers ambushed him with a metal pipe, and — thwack! — they took off with his passport and wallet and left him for dead. When Martins woke up in the hospital, he couldn’t feel the right side of his body.

“There had been other pain and misfortune along the way. A recurring repetitive-motion injury from practicing that was so agonizing he compares it to kidney stones. A pulmonary embolism. A coma because of that pulmonary embolism, during which Death, or at least an apparition of it, paid him a personal visit.

‘I recall an image of a carriage passing by with beautiful black horses,’ Martins says. ‘It was a beautiful carriage. The coachman asked me to get in the carriage, and I said, “No, I’m not going to get in.” That image is something I’ve never forgotten. The image is like a sign that I had a mission I had to fulfill with music.’

“In 2000, a failed surgery originally intended to restore functionality did his right hand in for good. Soon after, doctors found a tumor in his left. They removed it, along with any remaining hope of his fingers gliding over his beloved keyboard ever again. …

“At the age of 63 … Martins resigned himself to saying his most permanent goodbye to the piano yet: He chose to retire and become a conductor. He would now make music communally, after decades of being entwined in personal relationship with his instrument.

“Then along came these bionic gloves, created by an industrial designer named Ubiratan Bizarro Costa, who became familiar with Martins’s problems after he saw the maestro on a Brazilian television show in 2019. There is nothing high-tech about the gloves Costa invented, which is how he prefers it. … ‘I use minimalist design,’ Costa says. ‘The fewest number of pieces and the fewest number of expensive parts for the maximum result.’

“The gloves are both deceptively complicated looking and incredibly precise. The hand slips into a neoprene sleeve outfitted with a 3D-printed frame and stainless steel bars on the fingers. … Without the gloves, when Martins’s fingers hit a key, they stay depressed; the steel bars pop them back up.

“After seeing Martins on TV, Costa made a prototype and tried to get in touch with him on various platforms, but never heard back. The gloves lay dormant on a shelf in his office, until Costa saw that Martins and his orchestra were passing through Sumaré. …

“He went to the show, flagged down a musician, and explained his predicament. The guy thought Costa was kind of a weirdo but agreed to grab Martins. Eventually, Martins came out and Costa presented him with his invention.

“ ‘I thought he was an endearing mad scientist,’ Martins says, remembering his first encounter with Costa. [But] a few days after the concert, Martins invited Costa over for lunch. He told the designer what worked and what didn’t. Costa went home and fiddled with his model. …

“By Christmas 2019, Martins was able to place all 10 fingers on the keyboard for the first time in over two decades. Costa was pleased to see Martins playing in person, but it wasn’t until he saw the video that the gravity of the moment fully dawned on him.

“It’s like designing a paintbrush for Pablo Picasso, he thought.”

More at GQ, here. If you are on Instagram, you will be moved by this video of him playing properly for the first time in 20 years, thanks to the bionic gloves.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Radio TV Suisse/ The Literacy Project.
This is the poster for A is for Angicos, a documentary about an inspired literacy innovator in Brazil.

I was listening to the radio show the World the other day and was impressed by the story of the late Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. Most remarkable — and practical — was the way he approached the problem of adult illiteracy. Respectfully.

Carol Hills produced the report.

Some 60 years ago, Brazilian philosopher and educator Paulo Freire had a bold idea: teach 300 people in a poor, remote town in Brazil to read in just 40 hours of classes.

“His literacy experiment was not only successful — it was hugely influential around the world.

“Freire is best known for his groundbreaking book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first written in Portuguese in 1968. The book was later translated into multiple languages. …

“Freire, who died in 1997, was one of the founders of critical pedagogy, a movement that promotes the ’emancipation’ of students in the classroom and emphasizes the political nature of education. This year marks his centenary. 

“Now, a new documentary looks back at the pioneering work of Freire called A is for Angicos, made by Catherine Murphy.

“The 26-minute documentary tracks Freire’s early literacy experiments in the town of Angicos, in northeastern Brazil, where Freire worked with college-aged volunteers to mobilize illiterate villagers to learn to read and write and apply that knowledge to heighten their political consciousness. …

“Murphy joined the World‘s host Marco Werman to talk about the making of her film and Freire’s profound influence in the fields of education and social justice around the globe.

“How did Paulo Freire go about his work in that first experiment in northeast Brazil? This was the early 60s, right? 

“Yes. Paulo Freire mobilized a group of college students to be sort of co-creators with him of a technique to teach literacy in 40 hours to illiterate, mostly rural adults. And they went about designing a vocabulary system together with the people they would teach and choosing what they called ‘generative words,’ which were words in common usage in that region and held night classes to use these words to spark deeper discussion about the state of their lives and the world. …

“How different was that approach from previous approaches to literacy in Brazil?

“Well, they emphatically rejected earlier adult literacy materials that used children’s books, a children’s vocabulary. They created a methodology that used words that were in common usage, a common vocabulary that was co-created with the students and that honored their knowledge and wisdom. They had words like tijolo [‘brick’]​​​​ or ladrillo [’tile’], which are construction materials, but they also used words like povo and voto, which means ‘people’ and ‘vote.’ So, they were raising issues with people about: ‘Can you vote?’ ‘Do you have an identification card?’ … And really connecting them to these sort of larger questions about their lives and sort of social justice issues and trying to involve them in becoming protagonists in their own lives and in the world around them.

“At one point in your documentary, Catherine, we hear Paulo Freire himself talk about how he thinks of education and literacy, giving people power as change agents. … What is the essence of his philosophy, Catherine? 

“Freire talks about education as a tool for transformation. He rejects what he calls the ‘banking system’ of education, which is that you’re basically just depositing information in a person. He promotes what he calls learning to read the word and the world and to create what he also calls critical consciousness and to bring people into being change agents and agents for positive transformation in the world around them. 

“In 1964, a year after the literacy experiment in Angicos. The military came to power in Brazil and it came down hard on Paulo Freire and his methods. What happened? 

“The experience in Angicos was in full course that had the potential to become a national program. [The] coup happened on April 1, and Paulo Freire was taken prisoner the very next day, he was arrested in his home on April 2, 1964, went to jail for about 70 days and was then sent into exile and lived for many years in exile before returning to Brazil.

“He became a global figure, of course, in terms of empowerment education and published many, many books, including his most famous work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. But the fact that he was on that early, early list of the first people that they arrested is not a coincidence. At one of the previous graduations of the newly literate adults, there were some military figures present that were involved in the coup that would then happen. And seeing this, you know, upsetting of the traditional then sort of largely feudal system in Brazil in which landless peasants were learning how to read and write, registering to vote and taking an active role in changing the world around them, well, that was exactly what the coup was trying to prevent.”

I found the whole broadcast interesting. You can read more at the World, here, or listen to the program itself.

Read Full Post »

merlin_163064895_235f5cd5-5733-41b5-a037-4062b743e933-superjumbo

Photo: Maria Magdalena Arrellaga
The beautiful golden lion tamarin is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If this species goes, others will, too. Activists in Brazil are working to protect its habitat.

I really like the Science section of the New York Times. Right before we all began isolating, I had started reading headlines to a grandson and letting him pick an article we could read and talk about. He picked one about a planet small enough to fit in a living room. The tiny planet was a real thing, but we learned that it was only passing through Earth’s orbit.

Alas, who knows whether any grandchild will still be up for reading science articles with me when/if I ever get out of quarantine.

I believe this story about a beautiful endangered monkey in South America would have been of interest.

As James Gorman reported, “The golden lion tamarin, one of the world’s most charismatic primates, has a dark face that can look inquisitive, challenging, almost human, framed in an extravagant russet mane.

“The endangered New World monkey weighs less than two pounds. It lives only in Brazil, and only in the Atlantic coastal forest there. Tamarins spend their time high in the trees, up to 100 feet off the ground, in small groups of up to eight or so animals, with one breeding pair among each group. …

“The golden lion tamarin has always had its human admirers, many of them in the Old World. Europeans imported the animals as pets in the 1500s, and they can be seen in portraits of Spanish royalty.

“But deforestation, agriculture and development destroyed much of its habitat, as the pet trade continued into the 20th century. By the 1970s, only about 200 animals survived.

“In 1992, the Golden Lion Tamarin Association (Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado) was founded in Brazil. In concert with international conservation groups and supported by a dedicated U.S. charity, Save the Golden Lion Tamarin, the group began to buy up land to create connected conservation areas. And zoos around the world, like the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., contributed to reintroducing the animals to the wild.

“The population had reached 3,700 in the wild, according to Luis Paulo Ferraz, the director of the association, but suffered its first population decline last year, when yellow fever killed hundreds of the tiny monkeys. … Today there are about 2,500 tamarins living in about five million acres of forest. But only some of those forest acres are connected. …

“ ‘Our main goal,”’ Mr. Ferraz said, ‘is to create a viable population in the long term.’ What that means in numbers is a population of 2,000 tamarins with a connected conservation area of 2.5 million acres, milestones the group hopes to reach by 2025. Scientists say such a size is necessary for the population to be self-sustaining.

“One challenge to getting connected areas was the widening of a major coastal highway, BR-101, which cuts through large chunks of Atlantic forest. The improvement of the highway created a barrier that isolated several forest areas and their more than 700 tamarins from three other large forest fragments.

After negotiations and lawsuits, the conservationists managed to get the construction company to agree to build and pay for a forested overpass for animals, the first in Brazil, with a tunnel and forest canopy connections, to enable the tamarins and other animals to pass from one side to the other. …

“As with many other conservation campaigns, the golden lion tamarin is the beloved and beautiful poster animal for the preservation of a habitat that includes many plants and less compelling animals, like sloths and frogs. The forest also provides a watershed for human use.

” ‘We are not only talking about one species,’ Mr. Ferraz said. ‘We are talking about the environment.’ ”

Click here for more of the story — and some gorgeous pictures.

Read Full Post »

p1022720-720x540-1

Photo:
In a Brazilian favela, Rocywood actors pose with their screenwriter and their director.

The headlines from the slums of Brazil are hardly ever good. Between the gang violence and the police violence, there is frequent loss of life among innocent bystanders. So anytime I see something upbeat about these places — say, colorfully painted houses or musical instruments created from dump discards — I want to share the news.

This story is about the joy of making movies, even when the movies are about the harshness of life. It’s about the feeling of rising above it all.

Mariana Simões writes at Hyperallergic, ” Stacks of houses that showcase raw, exposed brick frame the rooftop view where I meet screenwriter Fabiana Escobar, or Bibi Danger, as she is known in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil.

“With around 70,000 inhabitants, Rocinha is a vibrant community made up of low-income improvised homes built atop rolling hills that tower over Rio de Janeiro like a city within a city. Rocinha is also where, since 2015, Escobar and four other filmmakers have championed a budding film scene they call ‘Rocywood,’ combining Rocinha with Hollywood. Their Rocywood production company has one award-winning short under its belt and another short and two features in the making.

The films portray local realities, from the joys of growing up in a tight-knit neighborhood to the difficulties residents face living among drug traffickers and gun violence.

“ ‘When I was a kid, I stayed home to watch the Oscars on TV and I would marvel at every little detail. Hollywood creates that kind of magic that envelops us, even though it’s something that is so distant from our reality,’ Escobar says. …  ‘I grew up with that magic, but the industry doesn’t embrace Rocinha. We have to create our own magic. We are going to make it happen for ourselves.’

“The 38-year-old screenwriter used to own a salon and clothing store, but now rents out her shop while she dedicates her life to making Hollywood magic. But most of the people involved can’t afford to make movies full-time.

“ ‘The actors, the producers, the whole team has a second job. I am a manager at a clothing store, and I make films up here on the hill on the side,’ says Sergio Dias, Rocywood’s 31-year-old director. Dias was born and raised in Rocinha where he is known by his stage name, Sergio Mib. His one-bedroom apartment functions as a dressing room and houses Rocywood’s equipment and props, including three toy assault rifles that look impressively real.

“Rocywood’s productions cost $50 dollars (USD) on average. The filmmakers often take the budget out of their own pockets to cover transportation fees and snacks. With no dedicated financing, everyone in the community pitches in to make the films come to life, from lending filming equipment to styling hair and makeup for free at the local salon. Dias explains that Rocywood makes a conscious effort to include only people from favelas in its productions. The films, made for locals by locals, are screened on the streets of Rocinha using a projector and an improvised tarp as a screen, but are also available on YouTube for a worldwide audience to see. …

“I went in search of Rocinha’s low-budget Hollywood scene after meeting American filmmaker Alan Hofmanis by chance at a traditional Rio de Janeiro fast-food style chicken restaurant in the bustling tourist neighborhood of Copacabana. I struck up a conversation with him about his dessert and ended up learning about Wakaliwood, Uganda’s version of Hollywood, named after Wakaliga, the slum in Uganda’s capital of Kampala where the films are made.

“Eight years ago, after Hofmanis saw a trailer for a feature by Ugandan director Isaac Nabwana that mixed mafia gangs, kung fu, and gun fighting, he hopped on a plane to meet Nabwana. In 2013, Hofmanis sold everything he owned in New York and moved to Wakaliga, where he has been making movies with Nabwana ever since. Nabwana founded Uganda’s first action-film company, has produced about 45 films, and just had his feature Crazy World premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

“Fascinated by Nabwana and his ability to make kitschy action films with budgets around 65 dollars that still draw in millions of online viewers, Hofmanis searched the world for others like him. He found people in Ghana, India, Afghanistan, Peru, and even Siberia who are also making low-budget, Hollywood-inspired productions. He came to Brazil in the hopes of discovering the same scene in Rio de Janeiro. …

“The American filmmaker believes low-budget, Hollywood-inspired films are a growing phenomenon. … ‘They are taking something that is outside their reality and spinning it and making it their own,’ he says. ‘So maybe this [new movement] can be called the Micro Wave because it’s a New Wave movement, but it’s based on these micro-economies.’ …

“Escobar summarizes, ‘I decided our next feature will be a horror film to break free from that stigma that because I live in a favela, I can only make films about drug trafficking and violence. If we want to write about drug trafficking it will be a great film, but we can rock other narratives, too, and we want to break that barrier.’ ”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

Read Full Post »

tribesonthebrink

Photo: The Explorers Club

You remember the great marine explorer Jacques Cousteau? Well, his granddaughter has grown up to be an explorer of vanishing cultures, and recently she made a movie about endangered tribes in the Amazon.

The film by Céline S. Cousteau is called Tribes on the Edge, and according to its website, it’s “more than a narrative of tribal reality in the Amazon [as it] suggests the universal story of our human tribe and how our future is interwoven with each other and with nature. This is a story that invokes the critical importance of respect and care – for land, culture, and humanity. …

“[The film] explores the timely topics of land threats, health crises, and human rights issues of indigenous peoples, expanding the view to how this is relevant to our world. More than a film, it has grown into a movement driven by a passionate effort to enact tangible impact in the Javari [Valley of Brazil] through education, advocacy, and activism. …

“Spanning more than 85,000 km2 (an area the size of Portugal), the Vale do Javari is the second largest indigenous territory in Brazil and is home to 5000 indigenous peoples from 6 tribes as well as the largest population of people living without any contact with the outside world in the entire Amazon and some say the world.

“Though the Javari has been designated for the tribes living there, there is looming pressure to increase harmful resource extraction which in other parts of the Amazon has led to environmental degradation. … It is estimated that the Amazon produces 20% the world’s oxygen and releases 55 gallons of water into the Atlantic ocean every second.”

Read more at the website, here, about what the International Union for Conservation of Nature calls “one of the irreplaceable areas of our planet.” And at the website for New York’s Explorers Club, which screened the film this past April, you can also can read about speaker Beto Marubo. A Marubo Indian, he has served with the national Indian foundation of Brazil, FUNAI, an initiative threatened by the likely election of someone Wikipedia calls “a polarizing and controversial politician” to the country’s presidency.

The movie is more timely than ever.

beto_250

Read Full Post »

tmg-article_tall

Photo: YouTube/Field of Vision
Karollyne, who works at the dog-rescue nonprofit founded by Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda in Brazil, is shown with one of the homeless dogs she cares for in an abandoned building.

Nothing humanizes homeless people more for us than seeing them interact with a pet. The panhandler who used to set up a blanket with his dog near Providence’s Kennedy Plaza always seemed cheerful whether he got money or not, and many passersby stopped to pat the dog and exchange a few friendly words. I haven’t seem him lately and can’t help wondering if his dog helped him to get it together and move off the street.

Consider a couple articles I’ve been reading on homelessness and the power of a pet. In the first article, reporter Candace Pires gathered the stories of four homeless people for the Guardian.

Heather, 22, told Pires, “Before we found Poppy, I didn’t feel like I had anything to wake up for. I was going through a rough time in my life and didn’t care about myself. I’d been homeless since my parents told me to leave our family house in June 2016 and was so miserable in my situation. Everywhere I go people shun me and tell me to leave.

“Then, last March, I was walking around downtown Seattle with my boyfriend when we saw a group of guys with two dogs. They were yelling at one of them and she was shivering and obviously scared. I went into a store and when I came out my boyfriend had the dog. I was confused. He said to me: ‘I made a life choice without you; we’re keeping the dog.’ He’d paid the guys $5 for her. …

“We moved from sleeping in a doorway to a tent. I stopped stealing food from stores when we were desperate; I didn’t want to go to jail for something dumb and risk losing her. I’ve applied for food stamps and now have a case manager helping me get on a housing list and get Poppy registered as a service animal so that we’re protected from being split up. …

“She wakes up so excited every morning and gets so happy about the littlest thing, like rolling around in the grass or even just the weather being nice. Seeing her like that reminds me to stay happy for simple things too. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

Pires wrote up three more stories by homeless pet owners in America here.

Meanwhile, the journalist Glenn Greenwald has written at the Dodo about the dog-rescue nonprofit he and David Miranda founded in Brazil, where homeless people who love dogs are hired as caregivers.

“In the last two years,” Greenwald reported, “our work with animals has taken on a new focus: working with homeless people who live on the streets with their pets. At first glance, this situation can seem grim and depressing: Many assume that animals who live on the street with homeless companions are mistreated or deprived.

“But, far more often, the truth is the opposite: The bond that forms between homeless people and their homeless pets is often [more] strong, deep and more profound than many can imagine. The mutual need, and resulting intense devotion, that homeless people and their animals develop for one another is inspiring and can be unlike what one might find in any other context.

Leslie Irvine, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, has devoted much of her academic career to studying this unique relationship, and even named her book on the topic, ‘My Dog Always Eats First.’ ”

Greenwald wrote more here.

Did you ever see a person you thought you couldn’t relate to until you saw the person’s relationship with a pet? I’d love to hear stories.

Read Full Post »

Illustration: Ben Kirchner
Raduan Nassar was 48 and at the height of his literary fame when, in 1984, he announced his retirement. He wanted to become a farmer.

I liked a recent article in the New Yorker about a Brazilian who left the writing life to become a farmer. Did literary perfectionism stress him out too much, or did farming just seem more real?

Alejandro Chacoff has the story.

“In 1973, the Brazilian writer Raduan Nassar quit his job. After six years as editor-in-chief at the Jornal do Bairro, an influential left-wing newspaper that opposed Brazil’s military regime, [he left] and spent a year in his São Paulo apartment, working twelve hours a day on a book, ‘crying the whole time.’ In ‘Ancient Tillage,’ the strange, short novel he wrote, a young man flees his rural home and family, only to return, chastened and a little humiliated, to the place of his childhood.

“ ‘Ancient Tillage’ was published in 1975, to immediate critical acclaim. … In 1978, a second novel appeared in print; Nassar had written the first draft of ‘A Cup of Rage’ in 1970, while living in Granja Viana, a bucolic neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. It, too, was received euphorically, winning the São Paulo Art Critics’ Association Prize (ACPA). …

Last year, Nassar’s two novels were translated into English for the first time, for the Penguin Modern Classics Series. …

“Nassar was forty-eight and at the height of his literary fame when, in 1984, he gave an interview with Folha de São Paulo, the country’s biggest daily newspaper, in which he announced his retirement. He wanted to become a farmer. … The following year, he bought a property of roughly sixteen hundred acres and began to plant soy, corn, beans, and wheat. …

“Nassar said that farming had always been his main occupation, whereas writing had ‘just been another activity.’ But his life in agriculture did not begin smoothly.

“ ‘For the first six years, we got killed; there were only losses.’ … Like his characters, he appears to have found solace in manual labor. ‘My life now is about doing, doing, doing,’ he told an interviewer, in 1996, when asked how he was faring after his literary retirement. …

“Both [Luiz Schwarcz, the editor-in-chief of Companhia das Letras, the country’s main publishing house,] and [Antonio Fernando de Franceschi, a poet and critic who became a close friend of Nassar’s,] believe that Nassar’s decision to quit came not from a waning of interest but from literary perfectionism. ‘He’s a guy who devotes himself so much to the craft that I think it’s hard for him to feel rewarded,’ Schwarcz said.” More here.

I intend to track down his books.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

So, actually, he was an artist first and only did gardening to support himself as immigrant with no connections.

Los Angeles Times reporter Carolina A. Miranda wrote about him in July, around the time of the “Made in L.A.” biennial at the Hammer Museum.

She says, “When artist Kenzi Shiokava received a telephone call from a pair of curators organizing [the biennial], he says he had little clue of the meteoric effect it would have on his life.

“ ‘I’d never seen “Made in L.A.,” ‘ says the 78-year-old sculptor. ‘I’ve always been off the art establishment.’

“But as he does with anyone who is interested in seeing his work, he invited the curators — Hamza Walker and Aram Moshayedi — to his studio so that they could have a look at his totemic wood sculptures, junk-art assemblages and curiosity boxes featuring orderly, patterned displays of old toys, plastic fruit and discarded religious ephemera.

“Shiokava says he was buoyed by the visit but subdued in his expectations. ‘Lots of shows come and go,’ he says. …

” ‘I didn’t know it’d be like this,’ he says with a resplendent grin. ‘The response has been amazing.’…

“[Walker] says that from the moment he and Moshayedi stepped into Shiokava’s studio, early in 2015, they were sure that this was an artist they wanted to include in the show.

“ ‘It was pretty immediate,’ he says. ‘We were both speechless within 10 paces of the entrance. There were all of these totems right up front and we were like, woooowwww.’ …

“ ‘What’s always kept me going is people coming to my studio and enjoying the work,’ [Shiokava] says in his deeply accented English. ‘But now I know my work will have a legacy. My work will live.’ ”

Read about the artist’s early life as a Japanese immigrant in Brazil, how he ended up in LA, and how he began to develop his art while working as a gardener for Marlon Brando and others (here).

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Kenzi Shiokava in his studio.

Read Full Post »

The concept of paying it forward has been flourishing in Naples, at least with regard to buying a cup of coffee for someone who can’t afford one.

Recently, reporter Gaia Pianigiani interviewed Neapolitans about the “suspended coffee practice. Coffee shop customer Laura Cozzolino explained, “ ‘As a Neapolitan who tries to restrict herself to four coffees a day, I understand that coffee is important. It’s a small treat that no one should miss.’

“The suspended coffee is a Neapolitan tradition that boomed during World War II and has found a revival in recent years during hard economic times.

“From Naples, by word of mouth and via the Internet, the gesture has spread throughout Italy and around the world, to coffee bars as far-flung as Sweden and Brazil. In some places in Italy, the generosity now extends to the suspended pizza or sandwich, or even books. …

“In a time of hardship, Italians can lack many things, but their coffee is not one of them. So it may be the most common item left at many cafes, as a gift, for people too poor to pay.”

More at the NY Times.

Photo: Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times
Receipts are left to be claimed by those who are unable to afford a cup of coffee. 

Read Full Post »

We watched Only When I Dance on Netflix last weekend, and afterward my husband did a Google search on the dancer who won the awards.

(The other dancer was heartbreaking. She was told that because she was black, there would be no opportunity in Brazil to join a company and she’d have to win a place abroad. Abroad, they told her she weighed too much — even though she was quite slender. Her family was poor and sacrificed everything for her.)

Dancer Irlan Silva ended up at the Boston Ballet.

James H. Burnett III wrote about him for the Globe. “At 23, Silva is a rising talent with Boston Ballet. But six years ago he wasn’t sure whether he’d even live long enough to see his dream of a career in ballet come to fruition. …

“Where he came from — a gritty favela in Rio de Janeiro — was documented in a critically acclaimed 2009 documentary called Only When I Dance, in which Silva and another dancer from the slums of Rio, Isabela Coracy, battle the odds in pursuit of their careers. Favelas, shanty towns that surround the city, are rife with poverty and violence. …

“Silva’s interest in ballet developed when he attended a professional performance at the age of 10. ‘I was hooked immediately,’ he says.

“He says his natural flexibility and leaping ability carried him until he was able to receive formal training, but not every flexible would-be dancer in Brazil was able to land a spot in Centro de Dança Rio, the nation’s premier ballet school.

“ ‘My teacher — a great teacher — Mariza Estrella  is responsible for inspiring me and pushing me on my way, out of the nest.’ …

” ‘Ballet can be expensive,’ he says. ‘My mother ran a cafe from her home. She still does in the same place. And she just made sure I had whatever I needed, like ballet shoes. …

“His father … Irenildo Santos, a factory worker in Rio, said through an interpreter in a recent phone interview that his son’s dancing ability was what convinced him that ballet was a worthwhile pursuit.

“ ‘We live in a very tough community. It can be very dangerous. There is crime. And there are even people who wish to harm you if you don’t behave in a certain way or fit a certain mold. … But when I saw him dance the first time, I was very moved. And now I am his fan. I am his biggest fan.’ ” Read more.

Photo: Essdras M Suarez/Boston Globe
Dancer Irlan Silva

Read Full Post »

Today I want to highlight Taylor Barnes’s story in the Christian Science Monitor about the transformative effect of volleyball among poor Brazilian children.

But first an admission that the topic of volleyball reminds me (incongruously) of the movie A Thousand Clowns, in which an out-of-work writer goes around New York City fulfilling lifetime ambitions such as  standing on Park Avenue at dawn and hollering, “All right, all you rich people; everybody out in the street for volleyball.”

OK. Got that off my chest. Back to Brazil.

“Roberto Bosch’s volleyball school was getting nowhere,” writes Barnes. “Then he invited kids from the slums to join for free.

“The gangly [Bosch] joined his first volleyball club at age 12; before he was old enough to drive, he was already under contract and being paid for playing the sport. In college, Betinho, as he is known [in Rio], dropped out of his classes in economics to travel with a professional team. When he competed in the youth world championships in Italy at age 20, he was considered the best player on earth.

“But health concerns made him leave pro volleyball just as his peers were graduating from college. Soon he found he was struggling to find a new direction for his life. …

“His wife suggested he start his own volleyball school.

” ‘Given that I was really depressed, really low at the time, I didn’t think I was capable’ of running a school,’ he says. Still, he set up a volleyball court on Rio de Janeiro’s glamorous, celebrity-studded Leblon Beach.

” ‘In the beginning, it was one old net, three old balls, and one student, which was my wife,’ he recalls. …

“Then Betinho had an idea … Why not go to the public schools and offer volleyball lessons to students free of charge?”

Students from the favelas and shantytowns jumped at the chance. As the school’s reputation grew, wealthy children signed up, too. Volleyball became the great leveler in Rio. And Betinho found a purpose in life, better than the first.

More here.

Photograph: Jimmy Chalk
Roberto Bosch teaches beach volleyball on Leblon Beach in Rio de Janeiro. His students come from both local slums and wealthy neighborhoods.

Read Full Post »

An Associated Press story on an “innovative program that allows inmates to reduce their sentences in exchange for generating power” caught the attention of NPR today. It seems that prisoners may volunteer to help “illuminate the town of Santa Rita do Sapucai [Brazil] at night.

“By pedaling, the inmates charge a battery that powers 10 street lamps along a riverside promenade. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, [the volunteers] get one day shaved off their sentences.

“The project in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais is one of several across Brazil meant to cut recidivism by helping restore an inmate’s sense of self-worth. Prisoners elsewhere can trim their sentences by reading sentences — in books — or taking classes.

“Officials say they’ve heard a few complaints the initiatives are soft on criminals, but there’s been little criticism in the country’s press or in other public forums.” Read more at National Public Radio.

Here is what such a bike might look like.

Photograph: Eric Luse, The Chronicle / San Francisco

Read Full Post »

A new exhibit organized by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York demonstrates the power of design to make life better for disadvantaged people.

“This is a design show about remaking the world … And that’s thrilling,” writes Michael Kimmelman, “whether it’s happening in Cupertino, Calif., or Uganda, where H.I.V. infects hundreds of people a day, and the latest news cellphone-wise has been the design and distribution of a text-messaging system that spreads health care information.

“In Kibera, an area of Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the densest slums in Africa, the challenge was different. Traditional wood and charcoal fires cause rampant respiratory disease there. Refuse fills the streets. So a Nairobian architect designed a community cooker, fueled by refuse residents collect in return for time using the ovens.

“From cellphones and cookers to cities: in Thailand, a public program called Baan Mankong Community Upgrading has, for the last eight years, been improving conditions in hundreds of that country’s 5,500 slums, bringing residents together with government and nongovernment agencies to design safer, cleaner places to live.”

Read more in the NY Times.

You will also enjoy reading about slum (favela) painting in Brazil and what a new coat of paint can do for building residents’ skills while lifting their spirits.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: