By Luciana Saramello-DeStefano*

Grupo Codigo's headquaters in Japeri, Rio de Janeiro

In order to promote access to culture to the residents of the neighborhood of Japeri, a low-income community in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, a local group of young artists founded the Grupo Sócio-Cultural Código (Socio-Cultural Code Group) in 2007. “The goal was to create not only a unique artistic language, but also to deepen and develop a new artistic expression within the local community,” says Jorge Braga Jr., the organization’s president.
Jorge, 24 years old, is an actor and cultural producer and has held the position of President and Project Coordinator at Grupo Código since 2007. Thanks to his dedication and enthusiasm, Grupo Codigo was able to make important partnerships, including one with BrazilFoundation in 2009, via the project “Oficinas Culturais do Grupo Codigo – Criando uma Nova Linguagem (Cultural Workshops of the Code Group’s Cultural – Creating a New Language).” The project sought to make culture accessible to youth and adolescents through workshops in dance, drawing, theater, capoeira, singing, and crafts. The products of these workshops – shows, plays and exhibitions – were presented and performed for the community.

Youth from the local community participate in one of Grupo Codigo's workshop

Jorge says that with the support of BrazilFoundation his organization has achieved greater recognition among the local community and neighboring areas, attracting more public attention. Along with the grant also came BrazilFoundation’s monitoring and evaluation programs, which helped Grupo Código to strengthen technical and management skills with the implementation of activities such as expense control, goal setting, and activity evaluation. “We were able to implement these routines in the daily activities of our organization,” says Jorge.

The organization created new theater plays, such as “History Captains” with students with students between 12 and 15 years old, and “Fuxicontos” with children between 7 and 11. They created new audiovisual workshops that allowed students to produce several short and medium-length films. One of them, the “Valão da Sorte”, which is a humorous critique of the social reality in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, was selected for the Visorama Audiovisual Peripheral Visions Festival of 2010 and won the jury award.

Scene of a play from Grupo Codigo

Another successful example, due to the remarkable work developed by the Grupo Código, is the story of Juliana Santos, a 20 year old who started attending theater workshops in 2007. The following year she began working with the theater instructor to monitor students, and in 2009 she started teaching a group of teenagers. In 2010 she was one of the girls who benefited from the BrazilFoundation grant, and was elected Treasurer of the association in the last year’s election, becoming part of the Board.

Jorge empathizes with other youth who like him didn’t have the chance to be in touch with Arts when he was younger. He believes contact with the arts helps to open more opportunities for youth, enabling them to better deal and to understand everyday life.

In 2010, Grupo Codigo was deemed a Point of Culture by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. To learn more about Grupo Codigo, please visit: http://grupocodigo.blogspot.com/

* A native of Sao Paulo, Luciana was BrazilFoundation intern from January to June 2011. Luciana is concluding her Bachelor degree in Journalism at Baruch College in New York.