The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will kick off in just over a month, but Brazil has been living in a state of perpetual turmoil. Along with construction delays, the country faces a Zika virus outbreak, a serious economic crisis, and political instability amid President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and interim President Michel Temer’s young presidency. All this raises questions about Brazil’s ability to host the Games.
Meanwhile, a mass eviction campaign has uprooted thousands of low-income families in Rio ahead of the massive sporting event.
In his ongoing photo and video project “Olympic Favela,” German artist Marc Ohrem-Leclef documents how residents of 14 Rio favelas have been affected by the evictions, which were organized by the city’s housing authority to make way for World Cup and Olympics infrastructure projects.
According to the Rio de Janeiro city government, 22,059 families have been removed from their homes and resettled between 2009 and 2015.
These communities are being broken up and destroyed. And that changes not only the city’s infrastructure. But their identity and soul.
German artist Marc Ohrem-Leclef
Some of Ohrem-Leclef’s portraits capture favela residents posing in front of homes that have been designated for removal. Another set of portraits shows them posing with flaming torches in their fists — appropriating a symbol of the Games as a sign of their own resistance.
“In these images the residents are no longer a subject that I look upon; their role in the image becomes active as they embrace the opportunity to represent their community, their struggle, and their resistance,” Ohrem-Leclef writes in his artist statement.
Ohrem-Leclef published Olympic Favela, a book containing 67 photographs he took in Rio’s favelas, in 2014.
“These communities are being broken up and destroyed. And that changes not only the city’s infrastructure. But their identity and soul,” he told Der Spiegel that year.
Scroll down to see more photos from Marc Ohrem-Leclef’s “Olympic Favela.”
A version of this post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and adapted for a U.S. audience.
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