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Mirante do Solar: “Colonization today is digital”

PHOTOS​: Mirante do Solar

Mirante do Solar: “Colonization today is digital”

Casa de Cultura e Ética engages with the island of Itaparica’s unique natural surroundings and offers a range of activities in the theater, cinema, literature, dance and visual arts. All free-of-charge.

Architect Pasqualino Magnavita first began visiting Itaparica, the largest island in Todos os Santos Bay, at the age of 10, when the area was known as a seaside resort for Bahia’s privileged class due to its beautiful beaches and therapeutic spring waters of Fonte da Bica. “I bought a dilapidated building here in 1968. It was the former headquarters of a plantation. You can see from the architecture that, at the time, they were more concerned with the exterior of the houses. They didn’t care about the beach,” he says.

Once the ferry between Salvador and Itaparica was introduced, Magnavita began to visit the island every weekend. “I’ve always had this strong relationship with the sea, with the sun. Even today, I stop working to watch the sunset.” In the 1990s, he expanded the house to accommodate his nephews who came to Itaparica for the summer. As soon as he retired, he began to live full-time in the space, where he made drawings and developed projects, including Mirante do Solar, first conceived in 2007.

Engaging with place

The pleasure of doing something for the collective good was the driving force behind the construction of Mirante do Solar – Casa de Cultura e Ética. Located in an area with a population of nearly 60,000, across 35 districts, Casa was founded on November 1, 2014, after seven years of construction, and is now a non-profit cultural association.

  • Pasqualino Magnavita | PHOTOS​: Mirante do Solar

  • PHOTOS​: Mirante do Solar

  • PHOTOS​: Mirante do Solar

The public interest project occupies a 1058 square meter space, which includes a gallery for exhibitions, an auditorium that seats 130 people, a workshop for various activities, an outdoor arena, offices, a technical area and additional services. The distinctive building is engaged with its natural surroundings: the auditorium stage overlooks the sea and large trees penetrate the interior space, creating labyrinths and passageways. Ambient sound is dominated by birdsong.

Creative resistance

Casa welcomes diverse cultural practices in the fields of music, theater, studio art, cinema, literature, dance, performance, photography and the visual arts. All activities are free-of-charge. “I don’t sell [anything], I don’t charge. That goes against my principles. Today, all we think about is profit. Everything becomes merchandise. I’ve always fought that. Three quarters of the world’s population is excluded from this capitalist system. Can’t we live in a society where the main objective isn’t to make money? That’s what I call an ethical principle,” says Magnavita, now 88.

His project practices the principles of a new, contemporary ethical-aesthetic paradigm, which incorporates creative resistance. “We no longer have the paradigm of art for art’s sake. But we live out the ethical principle, in the sense that we are creating resistance to social control,” he reflects. The open and welcoming space was devised, designed, built and financed by Magnavita. For him, the important thing is to create “things that can help the population overcome existing controls, since we all have an invisible electronic collar around our necks”.

Political attitude

For Magnavita, this ethical principle is a political and nonpartisan attitude. “Politics is in everything. It’s a conjunction of forces. In our families, in society.” Awareness of this, he says, can come about through awareness of the arts. As an example, Magnavita cites the voluntary initiative by teacher Rocio Castro who, in 2015, created the Cine Clube do Mirante in conjunction with the Jutahy Magalhães State Democratic School. The club’s film screenings deal with issues pertaining to the school’s curriculum: earth sciences, sociology, history, geography and art, fostering debate on relevant issues and the critical understanding of the contemporary dynamics fundamental to responsible citizenship.

“Yesterday there was a screening of the film Amazônia. Afterward, we talked about how it’s not just about seeing the animals, the plants, but that human beings also live in the Amazon. The devastation of the land is an attack on the Indians who live in those places. And they are cutting down the forest to boost intensive farming practices. It’s soy that has to give money. There is huge social inequality. Promoting this type of reflection means building an ethical attitude that shows it’s not just about the aesthetic appearance of the Amazon.”

In other words, Magnavita makes micro-revolutions, aware that change is slow in its reach and has limited power of multiplication. “You have to fight very hard. People are facing away from the sun. Colonization today is not just the land, it’s digital.”


    December 2017
    Salvador de Bahia, Brazil


    Christiane Sampaio is a journalist and project coordinator in the areas of public policy, education, culture and human rights. She lives in Salvador. 

    Translated by

    Zoë Perry​

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