MIND-BLOWN! The community of Cateura, Paraguay are so ingenious, they deserve a post on its own!
Cateura is a landfill slum but the optimism and creativity of its people has turned this problem into opportunity.
“The world sends us garbage and we send them music” is their slogan. They turn garbage into musical instruments like violins and cellos using oil cans and wood from the garbage. They’ve grown so popular that their 16-piece orchestra has even shared the stage with Metallica!! Woi awesome giler!
It’s easy to look at this project and applaud them for their impressive musical skills and creativity, which they no doubt have, but what impresses me the most about this initiative is the use of arts to highlight a serious problem in their community. But the question is: DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM? Or are the men and women in positions of power who sidelined and neglected this community washing their hands clean and comforting themselves by saying “Hey look, our trash has given these poor kids opportunities!”
As I’ve only been exposed to this initiative a few minutes ago, I admit there’s still a lot that I don’t know about this project, its impact, for instance. There’s a documentary about them, “Landfill Harmonic” which I hope I can find online later.
If I had the chance, I’d ask them these questions:
1. How important is music in the Cateura community culturally? And if it is, how much cultural elements have been incorporated in their music?
2. What’s the story behind this idea? Who came up with it, why?
3. Who provided the technical know-how of designing and producing these instruments?
4. Who trains these kids and oversees this initiative (outreach, operations, managing shows etc)?
5. How does the community view or feel about their trash problem now?
6. Has this initiative managed to highlight the problem to the local government and has the local government done anything to improve conditions?
7. Assuming this is a social business, how do they make money, how are performers paid, who manages the funds and what do they do with profits?
I’ll end this post with a few great quotes from these kids:
“We think that culture is a basic human need and music can change lives. To earn nothing is not an excuse for doing nothing”
“To learn the cello is a long process that teaches patience and solidarity”
“A violin is worth more than a house”
Oh, I must also mention: I love the irony of entertaining the middle and upper class audience using trash they had dumped at their homes.