This year marked the fifth meeting of the Mestres do Mundo, the Masters of the World, an event where “masters of culture” from small towns are invited by the Ceará state government and other organizations to share their work, take pride in their skills as musicians, dancers, poets, actors, and artisans, and meet one another to form a community of regional culture bearers. People who are given the title, “master of culture,” also receive a salary from the state. The four-day event took place in the town of Limoeiro do Norte, and journalists, college students, scholars, and people taking advantage of the St. Joseph’s Day three-day weekend saw the masters of culture in action. Every morning, the masters performed. In the afternoons, they talked about their lives in one lecture hall, while folklore scholars from Fortaleza lectured and debated about regional culture in another. The theme of the multi-session academic symposium couldn’t have been more appropriate for my research: “Preserving the Environment, Humanity, and Culture,” and there was even a lecture on the role of drought in cantoria, a kind of regional music. Every night, huge concerts were held in the town square, with musical acts from around Brazil.
In Ceará, it is generally believed that if it doesn’t rain by São José—St. Joseph’s Day—it will be a dry winter. At the end of a lecture about the relationship between the environment and pottery making, it began to pour outside, raining for one of the first times all season; coincidentally, it was on São José. The professor shouted, “Chuva, meu povo! São José!” (Rain, my people! St. Joseph!) And everyone began to applaud.
Here’s my video of the event:
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For my final blog entry, I will provide an overview of the work I did while in Uganda, discuss project sustainability and future plans, and share a few lessons learned from my Fulbright experience.
The goal of my Fulbright project was learn how the Hip Hop Therapy Project (HHTP) could be strengthened to better serve the young people participating in it. In this effort, I conducted a needs assessment exercise with the aim of using the findings to inform the project’s growth and development.
After speaking with over 30 young people and meeting with other project stakeholders I decided to focus my efforts on:
information for project members
It was the Oscar winning movie that couldn’t help but make the world fall in love. Given the success of Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi was naturally my first foray into the vast slum life of this grand city. Even though I had already been working with slum kids at the Akanksha Centers, I thought it was important to explore their lives in the slum itself, to see firsthand where they came from and to understand their worlds. The Dharavi slum remains the largest slum in Asia, and with over 1 million people clustered in 1 square mile, it is the only slum that you can see from the moon. There are numerous tourist agencies that operate there and offer guided walks through the area. The tour guides explain that their mission is to show visitors that the slum is not filled with a lazy and apathetic people, but rather a hard-working community that collaborates to live another day. There are over 10,000 different industries in the slum, from the traditional pottery and textile industries to an increasingly large recycling industry that processes recyclable waste from other parts of Mumbai. Dharavi exports goods around the world, with the total turnover estimated to be around 650 million US Dollars per year. The men in the slums work 10 hour days, melting aluminum and plastic, without even masks to protect against the fumes. The women wash empty kerosene cans in boiling hot water from dawn until dusk, without gloves to shield them from burn. And they do this for a mere 150 to 200 rupees a day. To give you a first-hand sense of the disparity in Bombay, I was at a friend’s birthday party on Marine Drive where her Indian boyfriend bought the table a 21,000 rupee bottle of champagne. The bill for 6, which he covered, was over 100,000 rupees. In 2 hours. Sans food. Most people wouldn’t see that amount in their lives.
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I thought I was leaving for Brazil on October 10th. But I had trouble getting my visa—for reasons too complicated and too boring to explain— and I’ve been stuck in Los Angeles. After three long weeks, my passport finally came in the mail, and I’m hoping to be in Fortaleza by next week. So for my first blog entry, I figured I’d tell you a little bit about myself and my relationship with Brazil and the state of Ceará.
Each of my family members has deep connections to Brazil. If I wanted to, I could start the family history about forty years ago—when the Silvers’ love affair with the land of Pelé, Xuxa, and Lula began—but instead I’ll just clarify that my parents aren’t Brazilian. My brother, who is a Brazilian citizen by birth, married a woman from Ceará this past summer.
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Namaste from India, and welcome to my Fulbright mtvU-blog! For the next 9 months, I will live in Mumbai and use this site to post videos, soundbites, photos, interviews, and updates on my project exploring Bollywood culture and its impacts and influences on underprivileged youth in Mumbai. As part of my project, I aim to coordinate with entertainment professionals at Rohit Roy Productions and the youth of the Akanksha Foundation to develop the theatre and drama program of the foundation and to create a Bollywood performance by the youth. My ultimate goal is to produce a documentary of the children’s journey, which will be screened at a fundraising gala that marks the 20th anniversary of the Akanksha foundation’s efforts.