Photo Finish: The Favelas of Rio in Miniature on Queens College Campus

December 11, 2013 | Salute to Scholars, The University

WHILE IT BEGAN AS A GAME played by teens in one of the working-class Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods, or “favelas,” today Projecto Morrinho has evolved into an art installation meant to inspire social awareness and international dialogue on the Queens College campus.

A permanent installation, Projecto Morrinho, which is Portuguese for “little hill project,” was built on the campus by visiting Brazilian artists and 30 student volunteers.

Two tons of bricks – flown in from Brazil – were painted and stacked to recreate the Rio’s neighborhoods. Three separate sites were built at the college during the Fall 2013 semester.
The largest of is on the steps of the Rosenthal Library Plaza. Although Projecto Morrinho installations have been built in Europe, the three on the Queens campus are the first in the United States.

Teenagers in Rio’s Laranjeiras neighborhood started building favela models in 1998 as a means of play and an escape from the police and drug-trafficker surrounding their community. Some of those teens – now adults – traveled to Queens College to build the Projecto Morrinho installations, not only as a means of play but also as a cultural exchange, says Queens College anthropology professor John Collins.

“The model has both an Empire State Building and a Christ statue so it’s not just an import from Brazil but rather a collaboration between young people from these two cities,” says Collins, who taught a semester-long course, Space in Brazil that offered students the opportunity to work on the project. “The installations offer students an opportunity to exchange ideas and help change perceptions of what life is like for those in Rio and New York City,” adds Collins.

Documenting part of the college’s Year of Brazil, student McLane Teitel photographed Projecto Morrinho as it rose on campus.

Documenting part of the
college’s Year of Brazil,
student McLane Teitel
photographed Projecto
Morrinho as it rose on campus.