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How Sonvela Arte changes neighborhoods and lives

The power of Urban Art in Mindelo

· Sonvela

Starting out

When I started to work on the idea of Sonvela Arte, I had hope of finding a partner in the city of Mindelo to help finance (a part of) the project. The first partner I thought of was the Cãmara Municipal (City Hall), since the project would obviously serve a purpose they are responsible for.

I also applied for sponsorship with SITA, a supplier of paint and painting products and Cimpor, a producer of ciment. By focussing on these two and asking for products that were essential to the project and would be used directly on the day to day activities of the project, I was hoping to better our chances of getting some support. Unfortunately no one would give us an opportunity.

Sonvela Arte is a unique project for Cape Verde. Using the power of Art, we focus on the transformation of neighborhoods. I wanted to start with plastering the street I chose, in Ilha d'Madeira, because all houses in this street were made out of bricks. That was it. The street was entirely grey, which gave the place a sad vibe.

Salgamorto street before project Sonvela Arte

Our Strategy and Methodology

Since we had no financial support at the start of the project I had to figure out another way to be able to finance our mission. I thought it would be good to use social media. By posting everything we were doing on Facebook, we could really take people who wanted to support our cause with us on our journey.

Sonvela Arte started out with a budget of € 180 (!!). This was an amount 'donated' by myself through my touristic activities with Mindelo Apartments on the island of São Vicente. On our third day, when it looked like we had no other choice but to stop the project, our first donation came in. The strategy we used to draw attention worked, because we would later receive enough donations to plaster and paint an entire street!

The methodology of Sonvela Arte is based on empowerment. I never thought of doing something for the people, but I wanted to present them an opportuntity to do something for themselves. It is truly unbelievable what we were able to create with a group of residents of a neighborhood that was once seen as a no-go area in Mindelo.

Also, Sonvela Arte my seem to be a Urban Street Art project. But it's not. It's so much more. I always like to say that our work starts when we finish painting. Because Art is not our goal, we use it's power to create a better neighborhood and change lives.

Rua d'Salgamorto at the end of febuary

Fase 1: Plastering

One day, in preparing things for the project, I saw Ronald in the neighborhood. I knew Ronald from activities we did with kids from the neighborhood playing football. I told him about my plans, and he said he lived in the street I was going to the project in. Once I showed him the plan I had drawn up, he immediately said he wanted to be part of this.

When Ronald joined the team, things became much easier. He was someone people already knew and trusted, and Ronald knew exactly who in the street could be a good match for the team. He put together the crew for our project, and was named the 'general coördinator'.

Miguel and Ton are our main guys in this area, but many people of the street and neighborhood helped out to make sure we could work as quickly as possible.

The plastering fase initially was planned only for the bottom floors. We did not have enough of a budget to plan ahead. A few weeks later we were finally able to conclude the plastering fase. One important donation came from Australia (!), where a friend of mine told his friends about our project, and they wanted to support us.

Artista and Sonvela Arte teammember Vadjix working on his piece

Fase 2: Painting

After about a month of working on plastering the houses of Salgamorto street we were ready to start painting! Mikinha, one of our painters, was not able to find a job as a painter. But he saw our project as a way to do what he loves the most. He and Ronald reached out to Fantchoka, a very creative guy who unfortunately could not keep away from trouble. Together, they were responsible for painting the entire street.

All through the paiting fase we were depending on people donating either money or buckets of paint to our project. We never stopped using Facebook as a way to spread our message. After painting the houses we also began working on some graffiti/murals. The first murals we did were the 'Blue Shark' and 'Amilcar Cabral'.

Building relationships

As part of methodology we went looking for project (mostly within the community) to connect with. To make eachother stronger. One thing Sonvela Arte stands for is connecting Art and Tourism, and using the power of both to create even more opportunities within 'forgotten neighborhoods'. Community tourism, if used correctly, is one of the strongest forms of tourism.

We connect with and started a partnership with the following 'projects' (to name a few):

Group of tourists visiting Sonvela Arte and enjoing a meal at Filo's
  • Community Tourism project Ribeira Bote
  • Pinta Povaçon project
  • Kindergarden Ilha d'Madeira
  • Escola Nova primary school
  • MEI_A college

One of the most important achievements we acomplished throughout Sonvela Arte was getting to a point where the project was partially self-sustainable. Because of our partnership with the Community Tourism programm, they would reserve a part of the income so that we could continue our work. We also received donations from people who came to visit us on the tour, and who donated because they were so impressed with the project and what it had done for our community.

Sonvela Arte is a project with so many different aspects. Construction, Architecture, Art, Culture, Empowerment, Tourism. Education… All aspects that together become the ‘total transformation’ of infamous neighborhoods, a mission that is within reach using our proven methodology…

** Currently the project is stopped because of a lack of funds. Sonvela Arte needs your support in order to continue our mission. Please reach out if you would like to support us.