Are you ready for Rio? Whether you’re watching from home, or lucky enough to have tickets to the events themselves, the one thing that’s guaranteed is that the Rio Olympics are going to be flooded with a carnivalesque sense of vibrant colour. Looking beyond the stadium however the whole of Brazil is filled with pockets of delightful and unexpected colour. For anyone travelling for the games, or inspired by the Olympics to make a trip in the future, here are our 5 must-see places and events for getting to the heart of colourful Brazil.
Since Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón began work on them in 1990, the Escadaria Selarón – or Selaron Steps – have become an iconic piece of Rio art. The painter began renovating the dilapidated steps outside of his house in tile fragments scavenged from local building sites, in the blue, green and yellow colours of the Brazilian flag. As one section began to look finished Selarón would begin work on another, admitting, “this crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death.” The 215 steps are now paved in tiles from over 60 countries, many of them hand-painted by the artist himself. You can find the steps between Joaquim Silva street and Pinto Martins street, officially known as Manuel Carneiro street, linking the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro.
The Pelourinho, Salvador
Salvador is Brazil’s third-largest city. Founded by the Portuguese in 1549 it was the first capital city of Brazil, and today its centre, full of colonial architecture and historical monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Centred around a triangular square, the Pelourinho was restored in the 1990s and today is a vibrant tourist centre full of outdoor food, markets and evening entertainment, all in the little network of pastel-coloured historic houses. An Instagrammer’s dream.
Castelo das Nações, Beto Carrero World
…as is the entrance to Beto Carrero World in the city of Penha, on the north coast of Santa Catarina. The biggest theme park in Latin America, and recently named the sixth best in the world, this park was created in the 1990s by local entertainer and Country musician Beto Carrero. It features a Pirate’s World, Germanic Village (paying tribute to the German immigrants to Santa Catarina) and, thanks to a link-up with DreamWorks and Universal Studios, numerous recognisable animated characters. However it’s the Castelo das Nações, a crazily rainbow-painted castle that welcomes visitors to the park and serves as a ticket office, that will really get colour fans buzzing.
The painted Favelas
One of the very first stories we reported on here at The Chromologist was the Kickstarter project to paint Rio’s Favelas in a rainbow of dynamic stripes. The Favelas are the slums of Brazil, providing often precarious homes to 11 million people. Dutch duo Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn set out to raise awareness of the housing conditions while at the same time instigating social change with their project to paint these areas, and today you can still see the bold and beautiful effects of their ongoing work.
A more recent project is the Rio Cruzeiro (above), a mural on the steps of Rua Santa Helena in Rio painted to cover a drainage ditch. The leaping fish design was created by Amsterdam-based tattoo artist Rob Admiraal and took more than a year to complete. Find out more about the Favela Painting Foundation here.
There’s sure to be a taste of the world’s most famous carnival in the Olympic’s opening ceremony, but to experience the real thing you’ll have to wait until 2017. Held every year before Lent, Rio Carnival is the biggest in the world and sees over 2 million people take to the streets every day in parades, on floats and as part of the central samba schools’ performances. Rio’s carnival isn’t the only one to see in Brazil of course – carnival is practically a way of life across the country, with other large cities and regions including São Paulo having their own celebrations at the same time, each with its own distinct musical and processional traditions.