Project Morrinho: A Small Revolution
Having recently arrived to Rio de Janeiro in 1997, at the age of 14, Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira was impressed with the landscape, architecture and atmosphere of the favelas that spanned the city. He decided to playfully reproduce this reality in his own backyard with bricks and paint that were leftover from his father’s work in construction. As he began to build this urban playground, it quickly caught the attention of seven other local boys. From then on, what began as mere child’s play became an outlet for the boys to not only have a safe and fun place to hangout, but to create their own reality beyond that. In Morrinho they built the city and the favelas as they knew them, and they played out life as they saw it unfolding around them – all of the good and all of the bad.
In recent years, the group has exhibited smaller scale replicas of the Morrinho model throughout Brazil and Europe, including the Urban World Forum in Barcelona (2004), Point Ephémère in Paris (2005), and the Venice Biennale (2007). The unique character and innovation of the Morrinho model has been recognized by curators and critics as a legitimate expression of contemporary art, and continues to draw international attention from journalists, architects, musicians, scholars, and tourists.
Morrinho’s headquarter is a 320 square meter small-scale model of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas constructed from bricks and other recycled materials. It began as a simple childhood game in 1997 by local youth so they could escape from the realities of violence and corruption that plagued them and their community. Within this miniature urban world of Morrinho (little hill) , they acted out a role-playing game with the numerous Lego-block dolls that inhabit the model, recreating life in Rio’s favelas. Currently more than 20 teenagers are following the example of our founding members.