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The first Initiatives


According to Angela Lühning, director of the Cultural Center: the initial idea came from me, one one hand - having lived in the neighbourhood since 1988 - and from Fatumbi [Pierre Verger] on the other. When he died in 1996, the neighbourhood had already accommodated new residents and families, and these people did not know what the Foundation was all about. Then, around the year 2000, and even more at the time of Pierre Verger's 100th anniversary in 2002, we, the team of the Pierre Verger Foundation realized that we had to do something to reverse this situation of unawareness [about the role of the Foundation]. That was the starting point.


In 2002, during the celebration of the 100-year anniversary, I gathered a group of kids from the neighbourhood and we had the first workshop in one of the rooms of the Foundation. We brought together art, education, theatre, music… a little bit of everything during one or two months. I also took the group with a bus provided by the city council of Salvador to the 100-year anniversary exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM). The idea behind this visit was that people from all walks of life came to the exhibition but the actual neighbours of Pierre Verger did not even know that there was an exhibition taking place, besides they were not accustomed to attending exhibitions and if they would have wanted to, they would not have had the means to do so.


The following year one of my students in the university had to embark on her teaching practice. I liked the proposal that she presented to Pracatum* and so I invited her to give a workshop, because we already had a group of youths interested in taking part in a singing workshop.</p> <p>Afterwards came someone who wanted to develop a workshop on recycling. We did a first project for which we received funding, and therefore we were already able to run two workshops. Then the youths began to request for an African dance workshop with Negrizu**. The request for guitar classes came later, musical workshop followed, and so on.


Our classroom became too small to accommodate all the students and my colleagues at the Foundation started complaining about the noise a little. We couldn't continue like that. The president of the Foundation himself saw to the development of the workshops. We decided to create this new space located on the land just above the headquarters of the Foundation, and he personally guaranteed the realization of the project.


The construction of the Pierre Verger Cultural Center

Planning on getting a bigger space, we submitted a proposal to the Federal Ministry of Culture (MinC), in the context of the "Cultural Point" (Ponto de Cultura) programme, which was approved. As a result of this, we got enough funds with which we used in carrying out our expansion project. While the building work was in progress, we utilized other rooms and external areas in order to meet up with the programme that had been approved by the Federal Ministry of Culture. We finally inaugurated the Pierre Verger Cultural Centre in November 2005.

The Centre started functioning immediately, irrespective of the fact that we did not have equipments, furniture, etc. we got those gradually, thanks to various supports and agreements.  Although all is not yet fully ready, we have succeeded in reaching what we had intended initially: to establish an interaction between the Foundation and the community. Because it was no use to have an institution that was only visited by a national and an international public, when the actual community knew next to nothing about our activities. At the same time, we wanted to attend to the social function of the Foundation, which is to instil a wider knowledge of the Afro-Brazilian culture within this community that mostly comprise of Afro-descendants. And this is how we fulfilled the wishes of Verger in regards to the status of the Foundation, which are: engaging in exchange programmes with Africa, and mainly promoting and researching the Afro-Brazilian culture not only through exhibitions and publications but also in a practical way at the headquarters of the Foundation. We took chances and came out successful.

Pierre Verger's involvement with the community

Verger was closely knitted to the community at the time. But because of the continuous increase of the population, the youths did not know who he was because they did not have personal contact with him. However when Verger was alive, the neighbours used to come a lot to make enquiries, research, receive orientation or information about the orixas, herbs, etc &ndash; I have been a witness to this since 1988. It is in this manner that we can say that Verger became close to the community, although he did not get actively involved, because that would not have been possible for a man of his age. Though Verger was keen on sharing what he had with the locals.

There was always somebody knocking at the door and if Verger was avoidably disposed, he would receive whosoever it was with open arms. Indeed there was an exchange with the local community. Besides, Verger was receiving quite a number of letters from researchers the world over which he read attentively and replied to daily. Verger was open to the friendship of people no matter their social status.

We at the Pierre Verger Foundation and Cultural Centre interpret and pursue this matter of being that Pierre Verger possessed in a certain way. Even if he never openly expressed the wish to establish a Cultural Centre, I am sure that he would have approved the project and be happy to see it in operation today.

*Community-based music school created by Carlinhos Brown in Candeal neighbourhood in Salvador.
** Dancer who was already involved with the Foundation. </p>

Interview with Angela Lühning - in charge of the Research Department at the Pierre Verger Foundation,  by Anne Sobotta.