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SOS Museu da Maré: Community Museum Protests Eviction

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"The museum is life, the museum is art. They can't take away what belongs to us. This is our story!" - Natália Rocha

“The museum is life, the museum is art. They can’t take away what belongs to us. This is our story!” – Natália Rocha

After seven years providing an acclaimed space for historic preservation, culture and art in Complexo da Maré, the Museu da Maré has been marked for eviction, with 90 days to vacate the premises.

“Here, resistance has always been necessary. But to resist alone is impossible.” – sign in Museu da Maré

True to the lines quoted above from the Tempo da Resistência (Time of Resistance) exhibit (one of the twenty themes that structure the museum’s permanent exhibition space) the Museu da Maré engaged several hundred people in support of the museum’s permanence during last week’s cultural protest entitled ‘Spring of Resistance: Museum, Memories, Utopias,’ where workshops, free guided tours and petition signing sessions showcased the importance of the museum for the community.

Launched in 2006, the museum was developed and maintained in a building loaned for 10 years to the NGO CEASM (Maré Center of Solidarity Studies and Actions). This contract expired last year. In June 2014, one of the managers from Grupo Libra de Comércio Marítimo, communicated the loss of investor interest in renewing the terms. Recently, on September 10, the museum received official notice giving 90 days to vacate the property. For this reason the eighth edition of the annual Brazilian museum week in Complexo da Maré took on a sense of urgency.

Strategies for resistance

The eviction threat has resulted in a strong call for joint action. Various strategies have been implemented to get the public involved in the movement to save the museum. In the week of the Spring of Resistance program there were meetings and workshops that included handicraft, capoeira, reading circles and environment debates that emphasized the importance of resistance. A Twitter event on September 23 generated several hundred tweets in one hour using the hashtag #SOSMuseuDaMare, taking the movement online to reach the wider society. A theatrical performance and candy distribution on Saturday September 27, the last day and apex of the Spring of Resistance, attracted around 500 people: favela and asfalto (formal city) residents, university students and professors protested against the eviction of the museum.

This is not the first or the last action organized by the museum, that in August created a movement called “Museu da Maré Resists!” supported by the Brazilian Institute of Museums (IBRAM), the City’s city planning Pereira Passos Institute (IPP) and the City’s Rio as Humanity’s Patrimony Institute (IRPH). The protection of the building was approved on September 18: such measure would not overturn the eviction but at least legally secure the value of the building’s patrimony for the city of Rio de Janeiro. There are four petitions to stop the eviction: three online (on Meu Rio‘s “Pressure Cooker“, Petição Pública and and one paper-based, as well as a mailing pressure group. In addition to all these actions, there will be a march from the Museu da Maré on October 18, that aims to block the nearby Avenida Brasil highway. There are also weekly Twitter events with the next one tomorrow, Thursday October 9 at 7pm, Rio de Janeiro time.


Grupo Gesto

The museum’s theater group, Grupo Gestos, performs on the last day of Spring of Resistance. Photos by Hugo Didier and Terezinha Lanzellotti.

Resisting together is possible

Having received some 40,000 visitors and numerous awards during its seven years of activity, Museu da Maré stands tall in the global museum community. “Sauvons le Museu da Maré” (Let’s save Museu da Maré) is an example of international support for the museum coming from France, pushing for the International Council of Museums to acknowledge and support the cause.

Supporters meeting to save the museum. Photo by Leon Diniz.

Supporters meeting to save the museum. Photo by Leon Diniz.

RioOnWatch visited the museum to document its importance and impact on the community. Click here for part two of this article, a photo-essay featuring testimonials from visitors, curators and collaborators of the Museu da Maré.