The streets of Central in Rio de Janeiro is the setting for a new project I’ve been working on while in Rio. To the left of Central station lies a bustling Afro-Brazilian community, amongst them live and work African immigrants. Many of whom have lived in Brazil for over 10 years and consider Brazil home. They’ve built a sweet success for themselves by working hard. But what’s to show for it? The streets are paved with historic buildings crumbling from years, decades and perhaps a century of neglect. Many are abandoned and have become home to squatters. Drugs and prostitution is rife… What goes on inside is not the business of an outsider.
Central Street Success is a photographic documentation of 5 native Africans who work on the streets of Central. Here’s a small taster of the lives of Africans living in Rio.
Kwadwo Amankona, shoe maker (Ghana)
Why did you choose to live in Brazil?
“I have lived in Brazil for four years now. Actually it wasn’t Brazil I wanted to come to but I ended up here. I was in Cabo Verde before but life there was too bad. There was no work.”
How did you start your business?
“How did I start?… When I came here there was another Ghanaian working here. I didn’t know anything about this profession. When I was in Ghana I didn’t do this job, I worked at Total filling station. I learnt everything when I got here. When the owner moved, he left the shop for me. I’ve been here for 4 years now.”
How long did it take you to learn Portuguese?
“Hmm, I would say 4 years because it isn’t everything that I know. It was hard to learn. When people would insult me I just remember the words and say it back to them. Then they say ‘no don’t use that word or someone will fight you’, then I know it’s not a good word. So I learnt the bad words fast!”
What does success mean to you?
“Success is import for me to take care of my family back home. I think I am more successful than when I was there (Africa).”
Is Brazil home?
“(laughs)… Is Brazil home? No. it’s not easy here. Not easy. If i get a chance I’ll move. I’ll move back to Ghana.”