A collaborative research project on the heritage value of Brazil’s Iron Quadrangle, in partnership with the Inhotim Institute

Roots of Resilience takes place in one of the richest cultural, environmental and historical regions of Brazil – Minas Gerais’s Quadrilátero Ferrífero (Iron Quadrangle) – home to two UNESCO World Heritage towns and also a site of Brazil’s largest iron ore reserves.

The region offers centuries of history through its architecture, monuments, archaeological sites, culinary, rituals, handcrafts, religious festivals and natural resources. Yet its local communities, natural environment and rich cultural heritage are at imminent risk from catastrophic natural and humanitarian disasters resulting from industrial mining. The closure of some of these sites, due to recent major dam failures, has caused not only contamination of the environment but also the loss of thousands of jobs, affecting directly or indirectly almost one million people.

Despite the unique cultural significance of Brazil’s Iron Quadrangle, to date there has been no systematic research to measure the impact of recent disasters on the region’s cultural heritage or on the lives of local communities.

The project aims to address the need for a broader assessment of the heritage value and cultural references present in the Brazil’s Iron Quadrangle to mitigate the environmental risks and prevent further disasters. Furthermore, it explores the resilience of local communities and focuses on the creative potential of local artists and their traditional practices. Another key goal is to enhance the role of cultural heritage in political and educational agendas and influence decisions by policy-makers.

Roots of Resilience pilots this community-based collaborative research project in partnership with the Inhotim Institute, Latin America’s largest outdoor art collection and one of Brazil’s most prestigious contemporary art galleries, serving as a cultural hub.

Five selected local arts organisations, including artists from indigenous and quilombola communities (descendent of African-Brazilian enslaves), will take part in immersive arts workshops and training sessions that will help them co-create inventories of their cultural practices and assets. This data, these stories and this cultural knowledge will be made available to local teachers, policymakers and local authorities, to help establish what role cultural heritage can have as part of a process of transformation, resilience and regeneration. A final exhibition by local artists will showcase the value of cultural heritage in these communities.

This project is funded by Arts & Humanities Research Council.