Project Sonvela Arte is a project by the Sonvela Foundation that started in November 2014 in the neighborhood of Ilha d’Madeira/Ribeira Bote, in Mindelo. This neighborhood is one of the country's most infamous places, with alcohol and drug abuse as one of the main problems. When I started the foundation in 2011 one of my goals was to give back to my father’s neighborhood, a place my grandparents called home for almost their entire lives.
Sonvela Arte uses the power of (Urban) Art and Culture as a force for social change, aiming for a total transformation by teaming up with other social projects and initiatives that are making a difference in the neighborhood.
The projects methodology involves working together with the residents, instead of for the residents. One of the most import things we focus on with the team is empowerment. We emphasise that Sonvela Arte is not just a project that they are involved in, but that the project belongs to them.
The team was formed by a young resident called Ronald dos Santos (25), who committed to the project from day 1. He formed the team out of several neighbors with the right skills.
By painting with very strong and lively colors we aim to focus attention on the neighborhood and it’s social issues. We also use graffiti to create colorful murals with our messages towards society, including our thoughts on social inequality, among other topics. The project has had lots of media coverage, from local news to national tv.
Sonvela Arte had a starting budget of less than 180 euros (CVE 18.000), which was a donation from my tourism initiative called Mindelo Apartments (GomesTours). With this amount we bought water, sand, cement and tools to get started. Only two of the houses in the chosen street were plastered so we definitely had our work cut out. Knowing that the budget would only last us a few days I made a plan to launch a Facebook campaign.
By constantly sharing updates and pictures people could follow the project even before the projects first day. On the third day of the project, just before we were about to run out of money we received our first donation. From that point on the project was lucky enough to receive donations from various countries, including Australia (!). It allowed us to work on the entire street in only 2 months, transforming it into one big work of art.
Today Sonvela Arte has a partnership with a local University, a kindergarten and, most important, with the Community Tourism Project Ribeira Bote. This project was set up by a group of young residents in 2012, to show the positive side of a place with a very bad reputation. Tourists come to visit the neighborhood because despite of the social issues the place is rich in history and culture. With their visits tourists contribute to the continuation of the Sonvela Arte project, making it partially self-sustainable.
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…