Ok, so perhaps I was being a tad hard on this city at first glance. It’s still a ginormous sprawling urban jungle, but clearly a city like no other. Today it’s Sunday and São Paulo is out on the streets and letting its hair down in the tropical sunshine. It’s quite enjoyable actually!
Every Sunday, Avenida Paulista, the most important and one of the most fashionable of avenues is closed to traffic and transformed into a wonderful open promenade. From late morning the avenue is filled with food vendors and market stalls, strolling families, couples walking their pooches fluffed up for the occasion, determined sweaty (invariably shirtless whatever the body-type) joggers, kids (of all ages) on skateboards and electric scooters, omnipresent cyclists seemingly hellbent on systematically mowing down pedestrians, and any number of side-show acts. There’s your dogged Elvis impersonators, your horror-film clowns and brothers from another planet, ballet-dancers and bubble-blowers and then there’s the competing hordes of other musical acts – from goth bands to lone crooners, Hillsong god-squadders Brazil-style and the omnipresent Brazilian drummers. Paulista has it all on a Sunday and it’s quite the scene.
The buildings lining Avenida Paulista are uniformly concrete and dull. However, there’s the occasional spark of interest. The breakout of a curve or a radical shape, a reflection or just a wall of sameness transformed in the sunshine.
There’s one particular standout along Paulista. The Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS), a non-profit institution focused on Photography, Literature, Visual Arts and Brazilian Music.
Two exhibitions well worth seeing:
Marc Ferrez: Território e Imagem (Territory and Imagery), the official photographer for the Geological Commission of the Brazilian Empire (1875-1878). A wonderful collection of original photographs, glass negatives, stereoscopies, autochromes and cameras.
Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle. A retrospective of photographs dedicated to the Yanomami people, an indigenous Amazon tribe now driven to the point of extinction.
The Yanomami people practice – amongst other rituals – endocannibalism, in which they consume the bones of deceased kinsmen. The body is wrapped in leaves and placed in the forest, away from the village ‘shabono’ (a large oval or circular plaited palm compound hosting up to 400 tribe members). Then, after insects have consumed the soft tissue, usually around 30-45 days, the bones are collected and cremated. The ashes are then mixed with a kind of soup made from bananas and consumed by the entire community. Waste not want not I say. The ashes not consumed are preserved in a gourd and the ritual repeated annually until there’s nothing left. This amazing ritual is meant to strengthen the Yanomami people and keep the spirt of the individual alive.
Fascinating stuff, but perhaps too much information.
We retreated back to the hotel pool for a cooling dip.
Brazil is a huge and fascinating country and like São Paulo, we’ve barely scratched the surface. May well require further missions!