The Brazil that never gives up

I have been going to Jardim de Gramacho for several months now. What was in the beginning a professional assignment has become a voluntary choice, the same choice I did in 2011, after the Haiti earthquake. We have this reflex of trying to offer solutions, and I learned to fight this. I now prefer observing, soaking up what I see and putting the daily lives of ordinary people into perspective. The camera then confers dignity; it lets them express their struggle and pride. At the end of the day, they are as much the director as I am.

An adult point of view will be mixed with the look of a handful of children who play at being photographers, as they explore and play out their own Jardim de Gramacho. Give them a camera, teach them how to use it, follow them as they roam their community and let them reveal their reality, their tenderness, and their hopes through photography. Then put together a touring exhibition of their images in order to valorize them through their artistic creation.

The idea is to start filming as early as next April, as the volunteers from TETO start rebuilding and to film what the community thinks of all this turmoil.

In a country such as Brazil, which is wealthy, I ask myself this question: how can an entire community be left to itself this way? One year after closing the Jardim de Gramacho landfill, the community has been left withour any viable solutions. Little training has been offered to help former “Catadores” (pickers) find a decent job, and hardly anyone has been compensated for losing their job, although such compensation was promised…

 What is worse is that where the legal landfill was closed in the run-into Rio +20, bin lorries carry on dumping rubbish daily in the community, in illegal fly dumping sites and right in front of their houses… a state of affair that nonetheless means a job for some.

As of today, the Brazilin government has decided to close down all illegal open air landfills in the country in 2014. What will happen to this already impoverished community?

A Jardim de Gramacho Forum has been set up, a gathering of various associations, but the majority of people turns to their local churches for food aid and moral support, perhaps hope.

Many families, often quite large, are now broken, the children being sent away to other family members for lack of space and resources at home. Houses have no running water or sanitation. Drinking water is available only 4 days per week in the main street. Families the store water in large plastic tanks in front of the house, often in direct sunlight. The water used for washing clothes and doing dishes is drawn straight from the ground, beneath the accumulated garbage, and is totally unfit for consumption.

On the world cup's eve, two years from the olympic games in which millions are invested in equipment some of them being ephemeral or linked to tourism, thirty minutes from the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches is community of Jardim de Gramacho, people who live among detritus and made a living from it .

Did we shut off their hopes by closing the landfill? It's them I want to talk about, they are the one who want to express themselves to make us understand that the landfill land can be a garden, an unhealthy garden but a garden from which some future might come to the surface.


Laurence Guenoun