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Ivan, a well known artist living in Caju Favela, would like us to bring a project to his neighborhood. He has offered to show us around and to take a look at the location he has in mind. We make our way to Pasarela Número 3, a walking bridge over the highway Avenida Brasil where he meets us to escort us into the favela.
Caju is a huge favela made up of eight different communities each with their own separate leadership and two of which are in conflict with the others. These communities are arranged around the Cemiterio Sao Francisco Xavier, an enormous cemetery, one of the oldest in Brazil and some of the houses actually have windows that open directly into the cemetery, a situation seen as a terrible thing in Brazilian culture.
Ivan shows us some of his paintings which have been reproduces onto the plexiglass barrier along the highway. When this barrier went up it was controversial because, in spite of statements made by the company to the contrary, the community knew that it was not meant a a noise barrier for the people living next to the road, but rather to hide the favela from the view of the cars passing by.
Cutting through Caju perpendicular to the highway is a raised freight train track. Built on huge cement pillars, this is the location that Ivan sees for our art project and it truly does dominate the area.
We stop at his house for a glass of water and then head deeper into the favela to visit the public school. Caju favela is not part of a pacification program so Ivan takes care to steer us out of the way of the very busy motorcycle traffic on the streets. He introduces us to the caretakers and teachers of the school, all of whom are very proud of their school and community.
It is lunch time so the school is empty of students, but during the morning 750 children study there and in the afternoon 350. In a small performance space, Ivan has painted cartoons on the walls for the children. On the weekends he teaches folkloric dance in the open air gymnasium. This man is truly committed to the enrichment of his community and inspires us to envision a community art project there.