By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Casa do Jongo, an award-winning Afro-Brazilian cultural center located in the neighborhood of Madureira, in the Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio de Janeiro, has reopened after briefly closing for four months due to a lack of funding.
The social project, over sixty years old, was only recently given a new headquarters in 2015 when supporters in cooperation with City Hall transformed an abandoned building into the only municipal cultural centre currently located within a favela community. Designed by RUA Architects, the building was also featured in the Architecture Biennale of Venice in 2016.
Casa do Jongo is a space where traditional Afro-Brazilian cultural practices are preserved and taught, and it had been teaching a wide range of free classes including dance, music, capoeira and traditional crafts to over 400 students when it was shut down on the December 31st due to a lack of funding.
Suellen Tavares, a coordinator at Casa do Jongo, commented on the importance of Casa do Jongo as a cultural space, and how the organisation needs support now more than ever.
“I am a black, lesbian woman, a practicer of Candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian religion), and a resident of the favela community, and I owe much to Casa do Jongo. It was Casa do Jongo, this place of understanding, that allowed me to dream of university as a possible place for me,” she said. “Casa do Jongo doesn’t tell you what you have to be, but rather what you can be.”
As part of the drive for funds, organizers are pooling all possible resources to keep the cultural centre running, including setting up an online fund where people can make donations.
“We have the support of the ISS (Tax incentives) today and can keep it open for three or four months. From there we have to rethink,” Suellen Tavares added, estimating that, per month, to keep the space operational costs about R$35,000. “That’s just keeping the very basics and trying to maintain our volunteers.”
Current financial worries did not stop Casa do Jongo throwing a splendid party last Saturday to celebrate their reopening, including an appearance from one of its founders, 97-year-old Tia (Aunt) Maria.