Kebradas UniDiversity

New Places of Learning and Power in Brazil

Written by Giselle Paulino
Art by Suélen Brito

In the last year, I have been immersed in an innovative adventure of exploring new forms of intelligence and power existing within unimagined spaces of society, such as the ghettos, or what we call in Brazil favelas or kebradas. The idea is to bring to light people and communities who are using their creativity and love to solve complex dilemmas of the planet.

We are creating opportunities so these leaders can meet each other and exchange their experiences and knowledge. We are supporting people to learn from real projects that present solutions for planetary dilemmas such as environment, violence, refugees, garbage, education, and new economy. Inspired by Manish Jain, a collaborator with The Emergence Network, we named it Kebradas UniDiversity, an experiment in post-activist education that recognizes the knowledge and power of communities as a guiding light.

It is true that favelas are considered dangerous areas deeply affected by drug trafficking… places from which the government and society have always turned a blind eye. But while these invisible parts of the cities lack all sorts of public services, people there have developed a great sense of collaboration, compassion, creativity, and resilience to overcome their own problems.

It all started after being with very inspiring people, such as Hermes de Sousa. Sousa’s love and compassion helped to transform the São Miguel Paulista landfills in São Paulo into a learning neighborhood. Another motivation was the couple, Claudio and Elem Miranda, from Favela da Paz, who helped decrease violence in one of the most dangerous parts of São Paulo. This experience shows that lively atmospheres of creativity, generosity, and collaboration are the richness of new times.

These are the “Masters of Kebradas,” people who can guide us in times of despair, when traditional experts and book theories cannot show us new paths. Many other Masters of Kebradas have been revealed to us: teachers who transform schools and ways of learning in violent places where no one else would dare to go; poets expressing their dreams and day-to-day dilemmas in the ghettos; ladies cooking without waste; groups who take care of homeless folks, just to name a few. In short, the Masters of Kebradas are people who, despite all the adversities in their own lives, are connected with a higher purpose of transforming their places and realities.

The word Kebradas come from “to break”. Therefore, Kebradas UniDiversity means also to “break” distances, prejudices and old paradigms. So, everyone who is seeking to eliminate gaps in our society can be a Master of Kebradas. Different from most of the programs that go into favelas, our journey is an invitation to unlearn old concepts, to be open to the unknown and to experiment other forms of learning and power.

Building these bridges may enable us to redesign our societies.

Multimedia by Suélen Brito

Suélen Brito is a visual artist who was born and raised in Favela da Maré, in Rio de Janeiro. These multimedia pieces were part of the Transcultural exhibition held by BELA Maré Galpão. Suélen has been a guiding star at Kebrada’s Unidiversity.

Atemporal (Timeless) represents Abayomi. In the Yoruba language Abayomi is a doll and an ancestral symbol of the Afro-Brazilian culture. It is the feminist representation of the Africans matriarchs that have spread their seeds throughout Brazil. Abayomi highlights the resistance of “timeless feminism” that sustains the energy of our deepest roots and resists again and again.

For the artist, Abayomi is also a happy meeting. It is the connection with our ancestrality, a hub of love that has created the effervescent Brazilian culture. These happy meetings are in the favelas, ghettos, rural areas, quilombos and kebradas. It is a minimalist concept of happiness that we search for in these times of emergence.

Giselle Paulino

I dream about writing stories of inspiring people who take care of nature and animals, dedicating their lives to social justice. Weaving between NGOs and the main Brazilian newspapers and magazines, I've had the chance to work in the Amazon covering issues of deforestation and community empowerment. I have also spent time traveling in places such as India, Thailand, Bhutan, Namibia, Madagascar and Ethiopia. I was always searching for good, strong stories. I am always fascinated by meeting and interviewing amazing people around the world.
Giselle Paulino

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