Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ReWind - Rio's Escaderia Selaron

Here's an "oldie but goodie" post from the beginnings of my blog.

I know that people around here in New York City say "Only in New York..." to something that is pretty odd or out there that only a New Yorker would not bat an eyelash, but I thought I would tell you about my experience that is psuedo-touristy but maybe an "Only in Rio..." kind of experience.

I had the wonderul opportunity of going to the Escaderia Selaron in Rio with my guide, Madson. Where and what is this? For those of you familiar with hip hop music videos, you've actually already seen this site in Snoop Dogg and Pharell of the Neptunes' video for the song "Beautiful." Don't remember that particular MTV/BET moment in time? Click on the link for a reminder.

Here are the Escaderia Selaron in all of their glory.
The Escaderia Selaron is a work of genius or perhaps madness depending on who you ask. Located in the hot (although not always safe) nightlife district of Lapa, Jorge Selaron began to transform these stairs leading from Rua Joaquim Silva and Rua Pinto Martins in 1990. Selaron is an artist who also draws and paints, but his biggest claim to fame has been these stairs made of colorful carefully broken tiles that he continues to craft and reshape continuously. Here's a close-up of what the tiles actually look like.

He claims that he will never stop changing the stairs until the day he dies. After his project became famous, people from around the world started to visit him. He began asking them to bring tiles from their country of origin. Recognize any of these places?

So every artist has their signature style or image; and for Senhor Selaron, it happens to be the the image of a pregnant Black woman. Hmmm...some people have their theories (I think this is the one I favor) that this is the image of a woman who was his pregnant lover who died in childbirth/or was pregnant with his child and they had a major disagreement, which destroyed their relationship. Selaron says it's a personal matter. A'ight, bruh. I understand. What do YOU all think? He's even created a version of the image with HIS head on the pregnant body. Here's the image on one of his tiles.

A mural with Selaron's head on the pregnant body. Kinda freaky, ain't it? This was in anticipation of last year's World Cup.

My guide, Madson, seemed to be pretty cool with Senhor Selaron, so he brought me to meet him. Oh my...what a guy!! I want to say that Senhor Selaron took a little liking to me. After starting to speak to him in my 5 year-old girl souding Portuguese, I just started speaking Spanish, which weirded him out but made me more comfortable that I wouldn't sound totally crazy and that we could actually talk and understand each other.

After learning that I was born on a small island in the Caribbean, I think that totally set him off. You see, his goal to collect a tile from as many countries in the world as possible, and here he saw me as a golden opportunity to get a tile from a teeny little island that (no offense to my people) probably doesn't have a population that may make the trip to Brazil. He started letting me pick out one of his drawings to take FOR FREE. He even posed for a picture with me!

Madson told me that it's the first time he'd ever seen Senhor Selaron react this way. While I'd like to think it was perhaps my magnetic personality (Ha!), I think it was more that I was from someplace a little exotic. Either way, it was nice to get the royal treatment regardless of Senhor S's motivations.

I have not forgotten him and his request for a tile from my little island homeland. Sadly, I have not been back to Antigua as much as I would like in the past few years, but I intend to keep my promise to him. Senhor Selaron, you will get a tile from me someday soon!!

Have you been to any local curiosities or met any local "celebrities" during your travels?

[PS: I still need to get him the tile.]


April D. Thompson said...

He's so awesome! I visited there last year but there were crazy crowds. We talked briefly, but everyone was asking him to point out tiles from their home state/country. So I know he was geeked to have someone come by and not be represented. And of course your magnetic personality helped>. :-)

Lauren said...

I remember those stairs from that video! What an interesting story associated with the stairs, I love that he is incorporating tiles from other places/countries.

Geek in Heels said...

What an awesome experience! Sadly, the only local "celebrity" I've ever met while traveling was the Bush Man in San Francisco, who was kind enough to answer my question "Do you make a lot of money doing this?" (The answer is yes, if anyone's curious. He told me he sent both his kids to college being the Bush Man!)

Try Anything Once Terri said...

@April - I am sure that he is totally swamped and busy. I was there in October, so it wasn't necessarily prime time I think. I'm glad that I got to have some one-on-one time with him.

@Geek in Heels - That's fascinating!

Monique said...

The stairs are so cool! It reminds a bit of the Watts Tower in L.A., that the artist made out of broken glass and junk. Get that man his tile soon, please. :-)

Passport Stamps said...

Brazil man, my next destination.


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