Informal Work by Young Entrepreneurs from the Peripheries of Rio de Janeiro

By Leandro Valiati, Veruska Delfino, Paul Heritage

Credit: still from film

Section one: Description of the case

This investigation, delivered in partnership with Agência de Redes para Juventude, consists of ten in-depth interviews with young arts entrepreneurs from the periphery of Rio de Janeiro focusing on their informal strategiesto deliver artistic projects, embracing schemes of funding, production, advertisement, exhibition, sustainability, barriers, opportunities, impacts, training, dialogues with formal structures, among other elements.

Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts. For one side, a rich, well connected, and glamorous metropolis, for other a town in which 22% of the population live in unregulated, improvised neighbourhoods lacking any sort of formal state policies.

Considering the positioning of these areas in Rio de Janeiro, there is a big difference between the factors that make up the human development index. There are, within the same city, the realities of Switzerland (0.930) and Venezuela (0.760) or Libya (0.720) and Norway (0.944) coexist. Noble neighbourhoods like Gávea, Leblon and Ipanema, consider themselves “micro countries”, for example, have a higher HDI than any country in the world.

Locating this research in the vulnerable areas of the city allowed the contextualization of the investigation in a territory where inhabitants are structurally subject to multiple stress factors (socioeconomic exclusion, high levels of violence, limited access to cultural networks and institutions, etc.) and face the absence of funding or state structures that can develop, evaluate, and maintain formal work relations. There are significant challenges for periphery residents to be included in the legal labour market, which generates an inherent need for innovation in their practices and strategies to produce art and culture. Necessarily, they use non-formal channels to build their resilience towards liveability and socioeconomic progress.

The methodology used consisted of semi-structured interviews with the selected young people with a questionnaire composed of open questions on central themes on the object of the research (experience with formal work (opportunities and limitations), trajectory in the art world, views on government and the public sector, needs, plans, dreams and pandemic). Each of the interviewees produced their path, not directed to create their narrative about the suggested macro issues. The raw recording material was approximately 300 minutes, which was reduced to around 35 minutes for the ten videos. The edition was based on close connections between the themes in the ten interviews, consistency and proximity to the proposed macro themes and clarity in presenting the thoughts. All respondents signed the terms of use of the image.

The young arts entrepreneurs interviewed, and their territories are:

Carol Dupré, 26 years old
A resident of Vila Kennedy, she leads the Saaf project. Since 2013, the project has developed educational and cultural projects with children in the Vila Kennedy favela.

Vila Kennedy is a neighbourhood in the West Zone of the City of Rio de Janeiro. It consists of the Vila Kennedy slum and a large housing estate. It is located on the banks of Avenida Brasil. Itsstreets are named after African, Asian and musician countries. Before being an official neighbourhood, it was a sub-neighbourhood belonging to Bangu. In July 2017, the law that makes it official as a community was enacted.

César Varella, 21 years old
A resident of Pavuna, he is an actor and leads the Coletivo Via Light. The collective brings together black artists from Zona Norte and Baixada Fluminense.

Pavuna is a neighbourhood located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, which borders municipalities in the Baixada Fluminense and has several favelas. Complexo do Chapadão and Complexo da Pedreira are part of the neighborhood.A resident of Pavuna, he is an actor and leads the Coletivo Via Light. The collective brings together black artists from Zona Norte and Baixada Fluminense.

Pavuna is a neighbourhood located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, which borders municipalities in the Baixada Fluminense and has several favelas. Complexo do Chapadão and Complexo da Pedreira are part of the neighborhood.

Elaine Rosa, 32 years old
A resident of Complexo do Lins, she is the creator of Feira Crespa, a social entrepreneur and DJ.

Complexo do Lins, a cluster of eleven favelas: Barro Preto, Barro Vermelho, Encontro, Base, Amor, Arvore Seca, Cachoeirinha, Cachoeira Grande, Gambá, Cotia and Boca do Mato. It constitutes one of the largest and most violent clusters of slums in Rio de Janeiro, with a population of 150,000 inhabitants, in a territorial extension of approximately 300 thousand square meters.

Isabella Silva, 28 years old
Borel resident, leads the Boreart project — Art collective at Borel Hill.

Morro do Borel is a slum located in the neighbourhood of Tijuca, in the north of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Its occupation began in 1921, after the demolition process of Morro does Castelo, in downtown Rio de Janeiro. The population that lived in that place was forced to migrate to other regions of the city, and the region that today is Morro do Borel was one of the most received residents. Like all slums in the town, Borel’s constitution begins as a solution to a housing crisis at that time. Before being occupied by the population searching for housing, it was owned by the French family Puri Borel, who lived on timber extraction.

Big Jaum (João), 22 years old
Guadalupe resident, humorist, independent artist and director of audiovisual content.

Guadalupe is a neighbourhood in the North Zone of the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It borders Anchieta, Deodoro, Marechal Hermes, Ricardo de Albuquerque, Barros Filho, Costa Barros and Pavuna. Located away from the Zones South and West beaches, Guadalupe is situated on the corridor Avenida Brasil. The neighbourhood has numerous corridors to various areas of Rio de Janeiro, including expressways. The community already had an industrial park very significant, with Pimaco, Brasvit and Eternit. Today, these industries are giving way to large commercial enterprises, supermarkets and shopping malls.

Juliana Mello, 31 years old
Resident of Providência, Co-founder and artistic director of the Instituto Método Urbano.

The Morro da Providencia is a hill located in the neighbourhood of Gamboa, in the Central Zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Its slopes have located a favela with the same name, highlighted for being the oldest favela in Brazil. The hill’s settlement began effectively in the 1890s by residents evicted from a tenement and by soldiers who participated in historical the Canudos War.

Luciano Pimenta, 25 years old
Resident of Pavuna, founder of Coletivo Vira Lata. The collective brings together peripheral communication and cultural production professionals for causes and movements.

Pavuna is a neighbourhood in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. It borders the neighborhoods of Anchieta, Guadalupe, Costa Barros, Coelho Neto, Acari, Irajá, Jardim América and Parque Colúmbia, and also with the municipality of São João de Meriti, in the neighborhoods Parque Araruama (Parque Analândia and Parque Juriti), Centro, Engenheiro Belford and São Mateus. The area has one of the largest populations among the neighbourhoods in Rio.

Matheus Araújo, 23 years old.
A resident of Maré, he is a writer and poet.

The Complexo da Maré, or simply Maré, its official name, is a neighbourhood located in the North Zone of the Capital Fluminense. The region is made up of a conglomerate of small areas, neighbourhoods, slums and micro-. Within this complex, there are several subdivisions, consisting of commercial establishments and housing estates. With about 130,000 residents (2010), it has one of the largest community complexes in Rio de Janeiro, resulting from low social development indicators that characterize the region.

Felipe Salsa, 30 years old
Resident of the Fumacê favela, dancer and cultural articulator.

Jardim Batan or Batan is a sub-neighbourhood of Realengo, in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro, close to Avenida Brasil. It is considered by many to be a slum.

Sara Ferreira, 20 years old
Resident of Pavuna. Trancista, flea market and creator of the Ori Bojumu enterprise.

Pavuna is a neighbourhood in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. It borders the neighborhoods of Anchieta, Guadalupe, Costa Barros, Coelho Neto, Acari, Irajá, Jardim América and Parque Colúmbia, and also with the municipality of São João de Meriti, in the neighborhoods Parque Araruama (Parque Analândia and Parque Juriti), Centro, Engenheiro Belford and São Mateus. The community has one of the largest populations among the areas in Rio.

Section Two: The Findings

The research produced relevant information to address the following SDGs:

  • Co-develop sustainable cultural and creative economy initiatives that provide the means for individuals and organizations from peripheral and fragile communities to develop their potential as active agents in improving social and economic resilience and reducing poverty (SDG1).
  • Engage and influence policymakers from government and non-government agencies to design, implement, monitor and evaluate effective policies for the development of the creative economy as a means of increasing decent work opportunities and nurturing economic growth (SDG8).
  • Engage artists and cultural practitioners from marginalized communities in constructive dialogues with representatives from across all aspects of civil society (SDG17).
  • Identify and learn from territorially-specific creative economy initiatives and experiments that maximize and strengthen local cultural resources towards eliminating poverty and reducing inequalities (SDG1 and SDG10).

The most relevant common findings are:

  • The young entrepreneurs in art and culture placed at vulnerable areas rely their work strategy on informal supporting networks based on hidden (not accounted for in formal statistics) economic circuits.
  • The role of family, friends and trust are essential to allow some forms of non-written contracts apart from the formal job market system.
  • The hidden economic circuits sometimes have contact zones with the formal course of work. Mainly it is connected to a “favour-retribution” system relying on a friend or familiar integrated into the formal circuit.
  • They prefer alternative arrangements to deliver innovation instead of stability with a chain of routine activities.
  • The young entrepreneurs in art and culture won’t be inserted in a formal job even if it is not connected to art and culture. There is a view on having more rights and benefits (health care, furlough systems). The lack of perspectives and stability make them less hopefully with the stands.
  • The government is significant in their vision, but they feel invisible to the institutions. In general, they tend to see art as a second job or the desired position to be accumulated with a formal instrumental career in any sector.
  • There are symbolic and instrumental components in having a formal job (whatever it may be), which is the possibility of having a document that in Brazil is called Carteira de Trabalho (Worker Identification Card).
  • This document is handy on two levels:
    a) instrumental: in peripheral areas as it is shown in police approaches as an indication that the young person is not involved in the trafficking but works and is, therefore, a “good citizen”.
    b) symbolic: being formally working signals to the family that the young person is on the right path to bring money into the home regularly.

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