Nelcirlan and Project Morrinho in Rio de Janeiro

Project Morrinho is a social and cultural project created in 1998 by Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira, a 14-year-old boy (at that time). The project is based out of the Favela Vila Pereira da Silva (Pereirão) in the Laranjeiras neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

Nelcirlan — who had recently moved to Rio de Janerio — was impressed with the architecture and style of life in the city’s favelas and he decided to playfully reproduce this reality in his own backyard with bricks and paint left over from his father’s work in construction.

Morrinho reproduces the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as an intricate and multifaceted model. In addition to the Lego people, it includes cars, police vehicles, and a helicopter, representing the reality lived by these young people.

Throughout the years, a project that began as a simple childhood game — to escape from the realities of violence and corruption that surrounded the teens and their community — has drawn considerable international attention from journalists, architects, musicians, scholars, and tourists, for its aesthetics and for the ingenuity of its child creators.

The project has also been recognized by curators and critics as a legitimate expression of contemporary art, growing from a local phenomenon to a popular international exhibit. 

Smaller-scale replicas of the Morrinho model have been exhibited throughout Brazil and Europe, including the 2004 Urban World Forum in Barcelona, the 2005 Point Ephémère in Paris and the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Since then Project Morrinho has been able to use that attention to evolve, not only as a work of art but also into an organization with aspirations for social change. It became a non-governmental organization, composed of four components (Tourism at Morrinho, TV Morrinho, Expo Morrinho, and Morrinho Social), that contribute directly to the socio-cultural and economic development of the surrounding areas.

The distorted belief that favelas are merely dominated by drug trafficking and violence is not all-encompassing. Project Morrinho contrasts this false assumption by communicating the realities of life: through films, plastic arts, theater and music it shows that life in the favela is multi-dimensional.

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