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Project Morrinho

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Title: Project Morrinho  
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Subject: Rio de Janeiro (city), Arco Metropolitano do Rio de Janeiro, Cidade do Samba, Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, History of Rio de Janeiro
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Project Morrinho

Morrinho storefronts with vehicles parked on the street and people seen through the windows
Typical street in the Morrinho model with vehicles and people

Project Morrinho (in Portuguese "Projeto Morrinho") is a social and cultural project based out of the Vila Pereira da Silva favela (Pereirão) in the Laranjeiras neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Morrinho, which was started by local youth in 1998, is a 320m² model of the city constructed from bricks and other recycled materials. It began as a simple childhood game to escape from the realities of violence and corruption that surrounded the teens and their community.

Within this miniature urban world of Morrinho ("little hill"), participants act out a role-playing game with the numerous people made from Lego that inhabit the model, recreating life in Rio's favelas. Morrinho reproduces the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as an intricate and multifaceted model. In addition to the Lego people, Morrinho includes cars, police vehicles, and a helicopter, representing the reality lived by these young people. Throughout the years, Morrinho has garnered increasing attention for its aesthetics and ingenuity of its child creators, growing from a local phenomenon to a popular international exhibit. It has been able to use that attention to evolve, not only as a work of art, but also, into an organization with aspirations for social change. Currently, more than 20 teenagers are following in the example of Morrinho’s founding members.


Two armed people stand outside a building in Morrinho
Two Lego figures armed with guns stand outside a building in the Morrinho model

Project Morrinho was created in 1998 by Nelcirlan Souza de Oliveira, a 14-year-old boy who had recently moved to Rio de Janeiro. Oliveira was impressed with the architecture and style of life in the city’s favelas and he decided to playfully reproduce this reality in his own backyard with bricks and paint left over from his father’s work in construction. This diversion caught the attention of seven other local youths, and what was began as a game became a hobby.[1]

In 2001, on a visit to the community, film directors Fábio Gavião, Marco Oliveira, and Francisco Franca invited the boys to participate in their work of image captivation. This partnership became a non-governmental organisation composed of four components: tourism at Morrinho, TV Morrinho, Expo Morrinho and Morrinho Social. In 2008, after seven years chronicling the history of Morrinho and the lives of its creators, filmmakers Fábio Gavião and Markão Oliveira released a full-length documentary titled Morrinho: God Knows Everything But Is No Snitch.

The unique character and innovation of the Morrinho model has been recognized by curators and critics as a legitimate expression of contemporary art, and has drawn considerable international attention from journalists, architects, musicians, scholars, and tourists. Smaller scale replicas of the Morrinho model have been exhibited throughout Brazil and Europe, including the 2004 Urban World Forum in Barcelona, the 2005 Point Ephémère in Paris and the 2007 Venice Biennale.[2]


Morrinho has four components: Tourism at Morrinho, TV Morrinho, Expo Morrinho, and Morrinho Social. Each is important to shaping the project as a whole.

Morrinho Tourism

Morrinho is open to the public and encourages travelers and locals to visit the project. This facilitates an exchange of ideas and allows a better understanding of the project and its meaning to the community.

Television Morrinho

TV Morrinho serves as a center for original independent and contracted video productions that derive from the model. TV Morrinho is a performance-based exhibition that began after the success of the 2007 Venice Biennal. The work debuted at the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna International Theater Festival) in 2008, and recently won a grant from the Ministry of Culture of Brazil. With TV Morrinho Live, the group builds a miniature favela, a replica of the Rio original. For the performances,[3] they develop a scripted role-playing drama involving the LEGO-figurine ‘inhabitants’ of the favela. The story is then played out and projected live via three video cameras onto a large screen for the audience to follow. The exhibition also features a music performance by MC Maiquinho, one of the Morrinho youth who has become a renowned funk singer.

In addition to productions created specifically for exhibitions around the world, TV Morrinho has produced numerous independent videos based on stories that have been developed in Morrinho.

TV Morrinho Institutional TV Morrinho Independent
  • Institutional films
  • Commercial firms (publicity campaigns)
  • General record of events
  • Music vídeos set in the Morrinho model
  • Children’s series for the television channel Nickelodeon
  • Independent short films, médium length films, and full-length features
  • Movie experience

TV Morrinho has also been contracted by clients such as British Gas Brazil, Casa França-Brasil, the Brazilian Ministry of Health, BHP Billiton, Junior Achievement and Nickelodeon Brazil.

TV Morrinho has also won the prize for Best Video at Visions of the Periphery Audiovisual Festival.

Morrinho Exhibition

Project Morrinho has been recoginzed domestically, as well as internationally at various exhibitions and festivals. At these events, a small scale model was built by the members of Morrinho to display to spectators. The following is a list of exhibitions:

Month & Year Exhibition Location
Nov – Dec 2002 Vitrine da loja RupeeRupee no Rio Design da Barra. Natal da Conscientização Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
May – June 2003 Parque das Ruínas Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sept – Nov 2003 Morrinho Pereirão Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
November 2003 Morrinho de Lazer, residential condominium Maricá, Brazil
November 2003 Morrinho no Show do Rappa Brazil
April 2004 Mostra Sociedade Viva (Ministry of Health Care) Natal, Brazil
August 2004 Mostra Sociedade Viva (Ministry of Health Care) Recife, Brazil
September 2004 Mostra Sociedade Viva (Ministry of Health Care) Campo Grande, Brazil
September 2004 Domingão do Faustão Brazil
September 2004 II Fórum Mundial Urbano Barcelona, Spain
October 2004 Circo Voador Brazil
October 2004 Mostra Sociedade Viva (Ministry of Health Care) Campo Grande, Brazil
October 2004 Mostra Tangolomango Castelinho do Flamengo, Brazil
November 2004 Coleção de Verão Filhas da Mãe Joanna Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
December 2005 Point Ephémère[4] Paris, France
June – Aug 2006 Haus der Kunst Munich, Germany
October 2006 27th São Paulo Biennial: Retratos da vida na favela.” by Paula Trope[5] Sao Paulo, Brazil
June 2007 52nd Venice Biennale[6] Venice, Italy
December 2007 Mostra SESC de Artes São Paulo, Brazil
May 2008 Brut im Künstlerhaus Vienna, Austria
May 2008 Hebbel am ufer – Hau Zwei Berlin, Germany
November 2008 Swarovski Kristalwelten Innsbruck, Austria
November 2008 SESC Art Show Exposition Sao Paulo, Brazil
December 2008 Umbria Jazz Festival Perugia, Italy
April 2009 Conference for Tourism and Social Responsibility at the Universidade Veiga da Almeida[7] Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
May 2009 Latin American Film Festival Netherlands
May 2009 University of Wisconsin and Easy Going Agency Madison, Wisconsin
July 2009 Fourth Annual Tourism Congress Sao Paulo, Brazil
July 2009 The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)[8] New York City
July 2009 Cultural exchange with "Video Nas Aldeias”[9] Pereira da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Morrinho Social

Morrinho Social, the fourth component, was still being developed as of August 2009. Following the slogan "Initiating a Small Revolution", Morrinho Social intends to offer profession qualification workshops to the residents of the Pereirão community. The idea has been developed over the past two years and aims to odder an education al component that complements the overarching values of Morrinho of social justice and economic mobility.

Through informal means Morrinho Social will develop the area of education and professionalism under the following courses:

  • Audiovisual
  • Art Education
  • Youth Leadership
  • Youth and Citizenship


Morrinho aims to bring positive change to the local community, as well as challenge the popular perception of Brazil’s favelas. Through its work, Morrinho contributes directly to the socio-cultural and economic development of the surrounding areas. The belief that favelas are merely dominated by drug trafficking and violence is not all encompassing. Morrinho communicates the realities of life through film, plastic arts, theater and music and shows that life in the favela is multi-dimensional.

External links

  • Official Morrinho Website (in Portuguese and English)
  • TV Morrinho YouTube Channel
  • Morrinho Tourism Blog
  • Project Morrinho YouTube Channel
  • Project Morrinho Facebook Page


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