3rd Solar Energy Workshop

On Sunday afternoon we held the third solar energy workshop in the Barracão. The main objective of the workshop was to brainstorm ways to sensitize Cabelo Seco and Marabá about solar energy during next week’s bike ride and the end of the year festival.

To give you a little background, the bike ride is a highly anticipated and widely enjoyed semi-annual event coordinated by Rios de Encontro. Known as the “bicicletada”, the event usually commences in Cabelo Seco and pauses for intervals in different neighborhoods throughout the city for refueling snacks and seven-minute workshops or presentations. Since the number of participants has been growing every year, the event requires a lot of careful planning. There are municipal and state policemen involved, firemen, local businesses and members from the secretariat of the environment. The presence of the police forces is as much for safety precautions as a way to involve the entire city in a healthy, sustainable activity. This year we will have two bicicletadas, one in partnership with a local elementary school and then another longer one in December that will be more focused on Cabelo Seco and the festival. Next Saturday’s bicicletada with the school celebrates the conclusion of various workshops Dan and Mano were invited to give to students and teachers as part of the national program “Mais Cultura nas Escolas” More Culture in Schools. Since this bicicletada will incorporate a much greater percentage of little people, it will be shorter than past bike rides and concentrated in Velha Marabá. The young coordinators of Rios de Encontro will play vital roles in synchronizing the departure from the elementary school, the workshops and the snacks. From the video clips I’ve seen and the number of children who have already stopped by the window of our house to confirm its date, I can sense the significance of the bicicletada throughout the community. Below is an awesome video made by the Rabetas Videos group about last year’s bicicletada.

Manoela and percussionists Elisa (18) and Carol (13) giving a workshop to teachers at the José Mendonça Vergolino elementary school

Manoela and percussionists Elisa (17) and Carol (13) giving a workshop to teachers at the José Mendonça Vergolino elementary school

2013 Bicicletada

2013 Bicicletada


In addition to the bicicletada, the Beleza Amazonica Festival will provide a platform to present our conversations and work on solar energy. This year’s Festival will celebrate the culmination of the sixth year of community solidarity and the Rios de Encontro project. Each micro-project holding workshops throughout the year will showcase their work in some way over the three-day celebration. Partners of Rios de Encontro and local musicians, artists and students are also invited to participate in giving presentations or mini-workshops. We are currently in the process of designing the Festival so I won’t give any more away, but hopefully this offers a better idea of what we needed to prepare for in the workshop.

Returning to that point, the aim of Sunday’s discussion was to determine what kinds of actions can be incorporated into the bicicletada and the festival to promote dialogue about solar energy. At the beginning of the workshop, I presented some pictures about solar energy innovations taking place around the world (including the events I mentioned in my last post). The topics ranged from innovations like the Solar Impulse plane, to solar powered kiosks that charge phones in Africa, to the solar panels installed at my university, to illiterate women trained in solar power engineering at the Barefoot College in India. This quick glance into the many different advancements taking place around the world was intended to give participants a base of current, up-to-date information that they can use to advocate. With the understanding that innovations using the energy of the sun are blossoming in many different countries, the conversation transitioned into a dialogue about what is possible here. We divided the workshop up into groups to better facilitate conversation and create a space for those who don’t have the confidence to speak in front of a larger audience. Some of the adolescents are very shy and will opt to remain silent even when they have valuable comments or questions to contribute. We presented the question to the groups: Using any type of artistic resource, music, film, dance, photography, how can we pitch solar energy to the public?


Bike radio

Once reunited as a larger group, Dan grabbed his camera and took on the role of an interviewer, directing the camera lens at different people with animated provocations. I’ve learned from their workshops that the camera is an incredible pedagogical tool. Once the camera is turned on, people become shy, embarrassed and start to giggle, but they are willing to contribute to the creation of a film. The feedback from the circle was really good. Last week Mano came up with the idea of creating a community bike radio powered by solar energy. I know that probably sounds confusing for people who are not from here. A bike radio is basically a bike that has a speaker system mounted on its front. Similar to the way cars drive around promoting political candidates during the elections, there are also people who ride these bike radios around blasting advertisements. The bikes often have a small roof or canopy situated over the biker to protect him/her from the glaring sun. Mano proposed placing a solar panel on the roof, which would power the speaker system for the community radio project we plan on starting (we consulted Luis about this idea and he said it would definitely be possible- we are currently in the process of finding the right speakers). Having shared this proposal with the members of the workshop, many suggested that a song would be an effective way of grabbing the attention of the general public. We could borrow the tactics used by politicians and substitute the lyrics of a popular song with phrases about solar energy to create something really catchy. People will be singing about solar energy without even realizing it. The song idea has great potential given the various musical talents of the people involved in the workshop. Other ideas for the bicicletada included creating posters with face cutouts that the children could pose with or designing some sort of stencil that could be painted onto hands, faces or t-shirts. We scheduled a time to reconnect on Thursday afternoon to put our ideas into action and everyone left with plans to experiment with potential lyrics.


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