In this article I wanted to share what I think were things we've been able to achieve with the Sonvela Arte project since the start back in 2014 in Mindelo, Cape Verde.
I'm in the process of writing more articles about our journey and what I hope we can all achieve together in the future. Thank you for reading.
When I first arrived in Rua d'Salgamorto, our first location of the project, it was totally grey. Nothing really used to happen there. A few months later, when we finished a part of our project, that had changed. First, people of the neighborhood started taking pictures and posting these on their social media. Then we started noticing people from other neighborhoods stopping by to take pictures as well.
Later we started getting visits from artists, big and small, that wanted our work to feature in their music video. All of these things were building up the self esteem of all who were involved. Especially because of the fact that we had created this together. As I always like to say, the street went from being the ugliest of the island, to becoming the most beautiful street of the island. The neighborhood could now be proud of where they live.
New & Improved Reputation
Ribeira Bote, and especially the part called Ilha d'Madeira is a notorious neighborhood. It's known for issues with alcohol and drugs but also gang related things. A place many people in the city preferred to avoid in the past. When I first did a Google search in the months before the project, this reputation reflected in the search results. They were practically all negative.
Fast forward to about a year later. Another Google search, and now things were different. I immediately saw our colorful pictures and the stories that were written about us. The team actually succeeded in changing the reputation of the neighborhood. This was huge!
The start of the project was extremely difficult. We had € 180 which we used to by water, cement and sand. The moment we bought these materials we had no more money. Because the team was not getting paid, I wanted to make sure they at least got breakfast and lunch everyday. So I paid for this myself. But something changed after a few days. We were showing up every day for work. People noticed this, and saw we were determined to reach our goal.
Now, we were having breakfast and lunch at a different house everyday. There was this growing feeling in the street that we were in this together, and that we were all part of this project. It felt amazing, because one of the ideas behind the project was to show what people can achieve in any place on earth if they work together.
Stronger Local Economy
I remember a tour I was doing in the Rocinha Favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The tour that day was with 4 young people from Sweden, interested to get to know life in a favela. At the start of the tour, after a drive by bus through the city, we we're standing at a view point in the favela. While enjoying the view, I explained to the group what we were looking at. From this view point in Rocinha we could see some of Brazil's most popular and expensive neighborhoods. Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon and Gavea are neighborhoods for the rich and famous.
We spoke about the giant differences in income between the two, and how they were completely different worlds within a few miles of distance. One young man in the group asked me one of the most interesting and difficult questions I ever got during any tour: “How do you get money from down there, to here, in the favela?”
I've been trying to answer this question ever since. I believe answering this question will ultimately bring the change in these neighborhoods so many of us desire.
By putting the donations we received to work in a neighborhood that sees little to no outside investments, money was flowing throughout the neighborhood touching the lives of people in need. At one point we could pay the team for their work. The food and snacks we ate was bought in the neighborhood, and so was the water and soda's.
It was because of this work, and the investments made that a partnership with the Community Tourism Project came to life. It's what made a few very interesting visits possible where everyone involved was able to earn some income that is so needed in these type of neighborhoods.
We Created Opportunities
The Sonvela Arte project was never about art. It's not an art project, although it definitely look like one. The project uses the power of art fot social change. So, art is not our goal but a way to achieve those goals. We wanted to create opportunities. On the job market, as small business owners, or within our Tourism Sector. The project created better conditions for the existing Community Tourism Project, and we developed a partnership.
But we also wanted to be able to receive our own visitors. One of these visits happened in October 2017, when we organized a visit of 33 (!) English guests in town for a Kizomba Festival. The visits were split in 3 days, so that the groups would not be too large. They were welcomed by the people in the neighborhood with food, drinks, music and a lot of hospitality. These days were a great motivation for everyone involved, and it showed again what the entire team is capable of.
Hi, my name is Freddy. I'm the creator of the Sonvela Arte project, and the MindeloCaboVerde.com travelblog. Thank you so much for reading about our journey. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions!