Ghetto Fabulous: Scarred by Violence and Political Repression, Brazil's Shanty Towns Have Responded with an Outpouring of Art, Music and Film. but as "Favela Chic" Becomes All the Rage in the West, Are We in Danger of Glamorising Slum Life?

By Bellos, Alex | New Statesman (1996), February 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

Ghetto Fabulous: Scarred by Violence and Political Repression, Brazil's Shanty Towns Have Responded with an Outpouring of Art, Music and Film. but as "Favela Chic" Becomes All the Rage in the West, Are We in Danger of Glamorising Slum Life?


Bellos, Alex, New Statesman (1996)


The decor is made from scrap found on the streets. The interior is styled with lovable and exotic informality, like some kind of tropical party shack; customers can listen to samba, drink caipirinhas and eat feijoada. This is the recently opened Favela Chic, one of the busiest bars in London's already bar-heavy Shoreditch.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Less than a mile away is an art installation without which, you could argue, Favela Chic may never have happened. Tropicalia, made in 1967 by Helio Oiticica and recreated at the Barbican for a festival season of Brazilian culture, is a gallery space turned into an ad-hoc Brazilian shanty, a favela. There is sand on the floor, rubber plants and bamboo fencing. Both Tropicalia and Favela Chic are middle-class interpretations of slum life, and both feature a playful juxtaposition of cliches, whether it is the squawking parrots in the Barbican or the funky remixes of traditional folk songs that have diners in Shore-ditch dancing on tables.

Oiticica's installation gave the name to an artistic movement that is much better known for its music. Tropicalia became a focus for counter-cultural experimentation as Brazil, in the late 1960s, headed into its darkest years of dictatorship. The singers Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa and the band Os Mutantes were the most visible Tropicalistas, and their innovative and energetic combination of international and domestic musical styles really did change the course of Brazilian pop music (and inspired northern-hemisphere artists from David Byrne to Beck). On Favela Chic's website there is an image that is a blatant parody of the cover of the movement's definitive 1968 album, Tropicalia.

I wonder quite what a Brazilian shanty-dweller would make of a venue such as Favela Chic, which glamorises poverty, and where a round of drinks costs the equivalent of his monthly salary. The answer, I suspect, is that he would be quietly flattered. Favelas may be dangerous and impoverished--as the world saw in Fernando Meirelles's film City of God--but their people are increasingly proud of their outlook on life. As a story of one favela's triumph over adversity, there is hardly anything more inspiring than the tale of Vigario Geral and AfroReggae.

The Brazilian Portuguese word "chacina" has no direct translation in English. It means the killing in cold blood of more than one person--less dramatic than "massacre" and more specific than "slaughter". Chacinas are in the news almost every week, and some acquire an epoch-defining status. Such was the case in Vigario Geral, a favela on the outskirts of Rio where, in August 1993, police shot dead 21 residents with no apparent motive. The image of corpses lined up in wooden boxes, in dark contrast to the usual Rio postcards of bikini-clad girls lying on Copacabana Beach, was seen around the world.

In the aftermath of the killings, local kids started a newsletter-cum-Bob Marley fanzine called AfroReggae News. Even though Brazil has more black people than any other country in the world apart from Nigeria, there are, with the obvious exception of Pele, surprisingly few home-grown role models. Favelas such as Vigario Geral are predominantly black: despite Brazil's reputation as a "racial democracy", race is still the most powerful indication of social status. There have been only three black members of government in Brazil's history. The first was Pele, a decade ago; the second is Gilberto Gil, the former Tropicalista rebel who became minister of culture in 2003; the third lasted a year in office.

Around the newsletter arose a community centre and a musical group--organised by the local promoter Jose Junior and musician Anderson Sa--which offered percussion classes and then moved into dance, capoeira, football and recycling. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ghetto Fabulous: Scarred by Violence and Political Repression, Brazil's Shanty Towns Have Responded with an Outpouring of Art, Music and Film. but as "Favela Chic" Becomes All the Rage in the West, Are We in Danger of Glamorising Slum Life?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.