The spontaneity of Brazilian tradition
Humberto and Fernando Campana have made salvage and safeguarding traditional Brazilian crafts the mission of the foundation bearing their name. Since 2009, with the Campana Institute, the two Brazilian brothers have been using design as a tool for transformation through social and educational programmes.
Famous for their use of rough, natural materials and for making the reuse of materials a feature of their design, the Campana brothers entered the world of design in the 1990s with their first chair, Favela — now held in the design collections of important international institutions and since 2002 produced by the Italian brand Edra. While everyone knows that the term 'favela' refers to the precarious settlements that characterise large Brazilian cities, perhaps not everyone knows that these shanty towns were the actual inspiration for the Favela chair: “the idea for the Favela chair came from looking at how part of the population in Brazil dealt with their lives and built their own homes”, recalls Humberto Campana, the older of the two with legal training behind, “we used glue and nails to assemble small pieces of salvaged wood by hand, following a very simple layout with no rational design”. At the time though we didn’t realise the reality of the lives of people who lived in these places, we didn’t realise what it means for children to grow up in an environment that doesn’t teach them self-esteem”, continues Humberto. “Years later, I went back to a favela and started working with these kids and realised that their reality was a violent one, so much so that when I suggested they make art objects, they built weapons, pistols and bombs.” Feeling grateful for what life had given them, Fernando and Humberto decided to put their experience and creativity back into circulation and in 2009 set up a foundation in Sao Paolo, the Campana Institute. “We work with kids and young people from the favelas, from drug rehabilitation centres and prisons,” continues Humberto, “with the aim of engaging them and stimulating them with our example of creating with your own hands and with your imagination, working with simple materials like terracotta, straw, leather, PVC bottle, cotton string, cardboard or wood from crates. And once a week an educator visits the communities to introduce an alternative view into the heavy atmosphere that the kids breathe in each day”. In addition to using design as a tool for transformation through social and educational programmes with the Campana Institute, the two Brazilian brothers seek to preserve the heritage not yet touched by globalisation and the value of Brazilian folk culture. Traditional techniques that are disappearing are being revived through design and the two brothers create new products and opportunities to keep those traditions alive within these outlying communities. The challenge of the Campana Institute is manifested in the reinterpretation of the cultural identity of their country, of the extraordinary inventiveness in recycling carried out by the street culture of the favelas on the one hand and on the other by local craft traditions that are translated into original designs that embody the spontaneous and instinctive aesthetic quality found in the Brazilian tradition.