Positive painting

A coat of paint can go a long way in making a colourful and empowering difference in the lives of poor communities.

Dutch design duo Haas&Hahn, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, are transforming the hillside slums or favelas of Brazil into colourful works of art, encouraging urban renewal.

Haas&Hahn had the idea to start a community-driven art intervention in Brazil while filming a documentary in the country in 2006. Their first project was a 150 square metre mural of a boy flying a kite, a favourite pastime in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Haas&Hahn involved local youths from the Soldados Nunca Mais programme of the Ibiss Foundation, offering an alternative to a life of crime. Their second artwork was the painting of the concrete structures built to protect the hill on Vila Cruzeiro, Rio’s most notorious slum, from mudslides during the rainy season.

Their most recent project has been the art intervention at Praça Cantão, the square at the entrance of the community of Santa Marta in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. The community were involved in this project in various ways, making them responsible for bringing pride and colour to their homes.

The vulnerability of these communities and the conditions in which they live increase the need for community projects that not only beautifies homes but also attracts positive attention to the neighbourhood. “It has the potential of working as a catalyst in the processes of social renewal and change,” says Urhahn.

The project is financed through grants and donations, and Haas&Hahn hope to start a similar project in the townships of South Africa in the near future.

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