On the eve of the 2016 Olympics, residents and activists of Vila Autódromo, in west Rio de Janeiro, coordinated yet another act of resistance against the forced evictions to which they were being subjected: the creation of the Evictions Museum. This new space was arose as a tool to fight for the right to the city and as a counter-narrative to the official story of the mega sporting events taking place in Rio de Janeiro at that time. Of the 780 families living in the community at the start of the evictions led by the city, today only 20 remain.
Initiative for the museum came from activist and museologist, Thainã de Medeiros, and it was backed by a university extension project, coordinated by professor and architect Diana Bogado, through Memory Workshops, carried out with residents of the community at the time of the evictions. Pedro Henrique Netto was one of the students who participated in the project, having attended the workshops that gave rise to the museum.
He created the sculpture Vila de Todos os Santos (All Saints Community), a tribute to Heloísa Helena Berto, also known as Mãe Luizinha de Nanã, and to the candomblé terreiro she maintained in the Vila Autódromo community. For months, the Casa de Nanã terreiro was cut off by billboards and barriers inside the Olympic Park, with no electricity or water, until the city government finally decreed its eviction and demolition in February 2016. “The title of the work was a way of trying to show that Vila Autódromo was a place for everyone, no matter their religion, ethnicity, race. For the sculpture, I thought about creating a circular space with bricks that I found close to the place where Dona Helena’s house was located,” says architect Nunes Netto, also a practitioner of religions of African origin. “This circular space served to represent Dona Helena’s resistance, while the circle also symbolized the candomblé meetings that took place at Casa de Nanã,” he adds.
Vila de Todos os Santos by Nunes Netto is one of seven sculptures that comprised the inaugural exhibition of the Evictions Museum. In 2017, some pieces of rubble from the museum were donated to Rio de Janeiro’s National Historical Museum. In 2018, residents unveiled a new walking tour, which today includes more than 18 signs identifying sites of memory for the community. All of them include the museum’s motto: “memory cannot be evicted”. One of the signs along the route refers to the “Memory Workshops” that gave rise to the project: “Over the course of the struggle for the community’s right to remain, the initial sculptures, some of which were removed, gradually deteriorated and other activities emerged. We are a living museum.”