It truly takes a special type of person to be a mother or a teacher. Mariluce Maria de Souza is both. Not only does she have a child and teach art, but she does it in Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of slums, Alemao.
Everyday she must pay close attention to any violent factors that might impact Alemao, such as shootings or other forms of violence. Occasionally, Souza has to cancel her art sessions teaching painting to children. Getting to the session can become too dangerous because of the violence that occurs in the slum.
The harsh environment negatively affects both Souza and the children, making it difficult to grow and learn due to the hostility they live in. Souza is not letting this stop her from positively impacting other girls and women in the slum.
She speaks on the hardships of being a single mother, “Sometimes the mothers, who are mother and father at the same time, don’t have the time to give the kind of attention that five, six or seven children need.”
Souza is a self-taught artist. One way that she has reached out and influenced her students is through her lessons, dubbed “Favela Art.” She requires that her students attend school and study hard in return.
She primarily stands against domestic violence and workplace discrimination against women. Brazil has extreme problems with gender-specific violence.The Brazilian nonprofit Mapa da Violencia says nearly five in 100,000 women are killed each year, giving the country one of the world’s highest homicide rates for women.
Additionally, this kind of violence is even worse for women of color. According to Mapa da Violencia, between 2003 and 2013 the annual number of homicides of black women jumped 54 percent.
Souza has worked alongside other strong female artists to shed light on these issues of violence. They work to combat the violence that women are experiencing by creating art.
Maiara Viana Rodrigues, who is now 25 years-old, was sexually abused by a man in her neighborhood when she was a teen. She explains, “We use the graffiti to demand the end of violence against women.” Using personal experiences and turning pain into inspiration can go a long way.
Lya Alves is an artist who has recently painted a mural of a black woman on a wall in Rio’s recently renovated port area. She brings up an important issue with the way that women are perceived as sexual objects.
She says, “Feminism has lost much of its meaning since the 1970s, when women fought against being considered sexual objects. Nowadays the media promotes the sexual objectification of women. Is that helping to obtain a better education, a better salary?”
Media has truly grown since the beginning of technology. This means that content is reaching large audiences at increasing rates. This has become dangerous when women are being mistreated on these widespread means of communication.
Using art as a way to bring attention to these problems not only spreads awareness, but also instills a sense of hope and inspiration for girls and women living in these areas. The art created in Rio is just as powerful as the women who have created it.
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