More than a million people live in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Rocinha is an ever-increasing one and the largest favela in Brazil with an estimated population somewhere between 120-160,000 (officially 56,307, although many people consider that  figure to be a serious underestimate) living predominantly in the self built housing that rises up the mountain backdrop to Rio’s wealthy beach front communities (home to  around 15,000 people). Violence involving not only local drug traffickers but outsiders like arms smugglers and corrupt police has worsened living conditions, security and health for the poor living in the favelas, and heavy weapons and drugs are part of the visible backdrop to daily life for Rio’s urban poor.

In 2007 we undertook our first participatory visual research project in Brazil, working with Viramundo, a Brazilian, non-governmental, community health organisation. Viramundo is committed to work with the urban poor and migrant groups (internal and refugees) living in Rio de Janeiro. Viramundo provides health education services and projects, very basic health care, training, and community development support aiming to improve the health and well being of disadvantaged groups in Brazil.

The Rocinha Visible Voice project is supported by funding from the University of Cumbria


Fieldwork for the first Visible Voice project in Brazil took place in June 2007 and we worked with people living in the Rocinha Favela to explore issues around migration, health, social change and everyday life amongst the people of the Rocinha Favela, in Rio de Janeiro.  We are continuing our work with Viramundo and are currently working with six Visual Activists from Rocinha screening the films and engaging communities  in discussion of health and lifestyle issues in their own neighbourhood through the use of photography and collaborative film making.


Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro

The film is just one of the visual exhibits created by a small group of Rocinha residents working with Viramundo as part of our Visible Voice collaboration. The group meet up on a regular basis to decide on topics for visual study. They go off and take photographs or video footage returning later to select and edit materials for public exhibit.

“Dr Health”, a street theatre health action that Flavio and Helena have been using for many years, aims to engage communities in discussion about health and well being.  This film, made by the Rocinha group with support from an italian NGO, shows how this works in the Rocinha favela.