Published: May 30th 2012May 29th 2012
Think Rio, and often people will think Carnival. It is after all probably the most famous celebration of Shrove Tuesday anywhere in the world. We picture Carnival running for one or maybe a few days and if you have seen pictures of the floats and dancers you will maybe have an inkling of the work involved behind the scenes, but it is probably no more than that, just an inkling.
Here in Rio de Janeiro the Carnival is such a big deal that a huge building has now been created to give the artists a place to create the costumes and floats and to give the organisers offices in which to plan the event. The Sambódromo comprises of the building itself as well as permanent seating, a parade area and a stage where the Judges can sit and grade the floats as they pass by. Even the stage follows the passion of Samba, the designer was inspired by the sunbathers on the sands of Rio. Each year almost as soon as the party finishes, work begins on the costumes and props that will be used the following year. Rehearsals begin in early December and all of the preparation should be
almost perfect by that time. A staggering amount of labour goes into making each float and costume as sparkly and eye catching as possible, each is designed to attract the eye and highlight the movements of Samba.
Samba is very big here in Rio, particularly in clubs and parties however during the day on on the radio you will hear more American and European music than traditional Samba. Nonetheless, I am reliably informed that Cariocas learn to Samba almost as soon as they can walk and every local that I have met here has proved that to be true.
As well as their passion for music, the Brazilians also love art. They have perhaps a more offbeat taste than the traditional Briton would have and as with everything else, their approach to art is more relaxed and less reserved than ours. Here grafitti is left as it is, as it is believed to be an expression of emotion rather than a crime. And I must say that most of the grafitti that I have seen has been very well done and interesting to look at. There is no doubt that much of it is indeed art.
of the most visited pieces of art in Rio de Janeiro are the Lapa Steps or more accurately titled the Escadaria Selarón. The steps are named after the artist Jorge Selarón, a somewhat eccentric man who can often be found sitting on the steps outside of his home, always in a red top and a red hat. When asked to pose for photographs with the visting tourists, he says nothing just sits there waving one hand in the air and poking out his tongue while the tourists seat themselves beside him and put their arms around him, a very strange sight to behold!
Selarón began to decorate the steps over 30 years ago, it was his way of saying thank you to Brazil for welcoming him so happily when he moved here from his homeland of Chile. The staircase is covered in ceramic tiles, coloured mainly red, yellow, green and blue. However within the colours you find that he has collected tiles from over 60 countries and has used these in his work. There are many from the UK, including maps, the red phonebox, the Welsh dragon and a portrait of the Beatles. The steps are really interesting although
it is almost impossible to see all of them as you are constantly distracted by another tile nearby.
Put together this experimental approach to art and the expressive sound of the Brazilian music and you will begin to get a feel for the Brazilian personality, constantly active and energetic yet relaxed and happy to put off until tomorrow that which could be done today. When the sun shines every day, it can be difficult to take life too seriously.