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Haas&Hahn is the working title of artistic duo Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. They started working together in 2005, when they filmed a documentary about hip hop in the favelas of Rio and São Paolo for MTV. Inspired by this visit, they embarked on a journey to bring outrageous works of art to unexpected places, starting with painting enormous murals in the slums of Brazil together with the local youth.

”The initial idea of the Favela Painting project has always been to paint an entire hillside favela in the center of Rio, visible to all inhabitants and visitors.
As the portuguese translation for ‘the hill’; ‘o morro’ is also used as a synonym for slum or favela, we chose to use this name for the third stage of the Favela Painting project.”

Over the last month, Praça Cantão, the square at the entrance of the community of Santa Marta has been the scene of a spectacular art intervention and was turned into a vibrant artwork of monumental scale. 34 houses on the giant hillside favela, located in the center of Rio de Janeiro, have been painted in a design of colorful rays, radiating into the city. This 7000 square meter artwork is part of the ‘Favela Painting’ project by Haas&Hahn (Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn), a project that aims to transform communities into landmarks and inspirational monuments as a part of Rio’s image, next to the statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain.

“This work of art can make a colorful difference in the lives of local individuals, the community and the city of Rio. It has the potential of working as a catalyst in the processes of social renewal and change” said Dre Urhahn, one of the Favela Painting artists. Realization of the artwork is largely driven by the inhabitants of Santa Marta. 25 local youth have been trained as painters, providing for their own income and being responsible for turning their own neighborhood into a colorful monument. This grassroots method of working has proven to be successful in earlier projects, and gives the local community empowerment, pride and color. The local team is complemented by three painters from another favela, Vila Cruzeiro, where two of the previous projects by Haas & Hahn took place.

The project was paused during the catastrophic rains, that hit Rio de Janeiro so hard, killed hundreds and left thousands homeless. The team of painters was sent to the affected areas to help clear the rubble. The vulnerability of these communities and the situation the inhabitants sometimes live in, make it clear that they need all attention they can get. They see the art project not only as a way to beatify, but mostly to attract attention to them and their neighbourhood in a positive way.

The project has thus far been financed through grants and donations, but a co-operation with the dutch paint company AkzoNobel might open new doors. A meeting with their inspiring Managing Director Tex Gunning, showed they had a shared vision. “They wanted to give color to the community”, Dre recalls, “and we wanted to give art to the community. I see no reason why we cannot recreate this idea across 300 houses, 3000 houses, whether its in Rio, Johannesburg, Mumbai or anywhere in the world.” But first plans are to return to Rio to realize the dream that started the whole project and of which Praça Cantão can be seen as a start: painting an entire favela!

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