By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Telhado Orgânico Medicinal (Organic Medicinal Roof) and Galeria Viva (Living Gallery), two local projects in the Vidigal favela community, have been declared spaces of intangible cultural heritage for the City of Rio de Janeiro.
The projects, which have been a point-of-reference for residents of the Zona Sul (South Zone) favela’s community for some time, will now be protected under federal law, by locals in partnership with the state government.
City councilman Reiman announced the recognition to the community, stating the cultural importance of projects like Vidigal’s Telhado Orgânico Medicinal and Galeria Viva.
“[These projects] are transmitted from generation to generation and are constantly recreated by communities and groups according to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, generating a sense of identity and continuity,” he told ArchDaily.
The project was conceived and realized by two Vidigal residents, local chef Graça dos Prazeres and architect Carlos Augusto Graciano, known by residents as Guto. The Telhado Orgânico Medicinal is principally an organic herb garden, and also provides shade for people waiting for kombis (VW buses) to take them further up the hill. Directly underneath, the Galeria Viva is the fifty meter-long wall which was painted by local street artists.
The project began with the help of NGO Viva Favela and local collective Soluções Holísticas (Holistic Solutions) in February 2016. It was completed without public investment, as a social action with popular support from the community.
Among the project’s aims was re-establishing the favela’s greenery, to educate residents on environmental and conservation issues, and to encourage residents to rethink and change their eating habits.
Graciano used building the garden as a lesson for local public school children, teaching them about about nature, the environment and conservation.
Additionally, herbs chosen for the Telhado Orgânico Medicinal are naturally more resilient and need less watering, and the structure was built from recycled and easily accessible natural materials: PET plastic bottles, clay, pebbles and grass.
Local resident Dani Rieck said cultural projects like the Telhado Orgânico Medicinal are important for uniting and educating communities. “It’s a language that is understood and embraced by all classes,” she told The Rio Times. “It brings awareness and togetherness to the community and it’s something to feel proud of.”
Prazeres and Graciano hope said that the project will inspire residents to begin their own rooftop gardens and grow their own herbs. “The idea is to do as people who are interested in hanging roofs and make their own roof on the slabs of their houses,” Graciano told Brasil247.
Prazeres has previously run other healthy-eating initiatives within Vidigal’s community. In 2014, she held an organic cooking course for residents, designed to help locals learn to make healthier versions of their favorite dishes and learn more about nutrition.
With the Telhado Orgânico Medicinal, she hopes residents will see how cheap and easy adding home-grown nutrition to their cooking can be.