IDG Completes Enhancement Works on the Archaeological Site Cais do Valongo

The enhancement works on Cais do Valongo have been completed, and the archaeological site was handed over to the community on Wednesday, November 23rd. The result of a partnership between the Rio de Janeiro City Hall, Iphan, State Grid, and IDG, the project also had the participation of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Brazil in its first phase, with conservation and structural works that were crucial for maintaining the UNESCO World Heritage title. The initiative also received support from the Management Committee, consisting of 15 civil society and 16 government representatives at the federal, state, and municipal levels, with a total of 31 titular members, each with a substitute.


To mark the delivery, an event was held at the site with the presence of Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro; Leandro Grass, President of Iphan; Aloízio Mercadante, President of BNDES; Ricardo Piquet, CEO of IDG - Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Gestão; Jacqueline Ward, U.S. Consul General; Sun Tao, representative of State Grid Brazil Holding; Gracy Mary, representative of the Management Committee; and Isabel de Paula, UNESCO Cultural Coordinator. Mãe Edelzuita led a territory cleansing before the authorities' speeches.


Located in the Pequena África region in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Cais do Valongo was revealed during the Porto Maravilha works conducted by the Rio de Janeiro City Hall in 2011 and was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2017 as the primary landing pier for enslaved Africans in the Americas, the only one that has been materially preserved. In the same year, negotiations for the revitalization project of the archaeological site began.


In 2018, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Brazil invested $500,000, approximately R$2.5 million, in the works at Cais do Valongo. The investment, made with funds from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), represents the appreciation of the shared Afro-descendant heritage between Brazil and the United States. The works were completed in 2021 and were presented during the 'Celebra Valongo' event, which also marked the conclusion of the virtual heritage and cultural education activities of the project '(A)gentes do Valongo.'


"This initiative reflects our belief that every culture has value, and the heritage of all deserves to be preserved for future generations. I kindly ask that everyone make the voices of Valongo heard by all who pass by. And that, in the future, everyone knows their stories and learns from them," said Consul General Jacqueline Ward.


"Delivering this project is contributing to the strengthening of African heritage and drawing attention to the violence practiced for more than three centuries against Africans brought to Brazil. Beyond the delivery of physical space, our goal is to raise reflections on the slave system and its living consequences to this day. We, at IDG, are very proud of all the work done on this site, alongside such relevant supporters and partners who were essential in making this delivery possible, such as the institutions present in the territory and government agencies. It is a project carried out without direct public funds thanks to the support of the financiers," said Ricardo Piquet, CEO of IDG - Instituto de Desenvolvimento e Gestão.


"The IDG interventions at Cais do Valongo aim to contribute to the preservation of the memory and historical recognition of the site, which was the main arrival port for enslaved Africans in the Americas. The works will make the space more accessible and secure, and the project of exhibition modules, an open-air exhibition, proposes a critical reflection on the period of enslavement and its lasting consequences," explains Sergio Mendes, Project Director at IDG.


"The enhancement project of Cais do Valongo is aligned with the purpose of State Grid, a company that shares two cultures and recognizes the importance of respecting the historical and cultural value of a site that is a world heritage. Therefore, in every action we took here, we always took care to contribute to something that will be a legacy for all of society. It was thinking about it that we bought into the project idea, and now, with great affection and happiness for the completion of the works, we reaffirm our vocation to support the protection of the country's cultural and historical heritage," added Ricardo Felix, Director of Health, Safety, and Environment at State Grid Brazil Holding.


With a total investment of over R$2 million by the electricity transmission company State Grid Brazil Holding, through financing from the Social Investment for Companies - ISE line of BNDES, the delivery of this second and final stage includes the physical adaptation of the site, signage of the archaeological site, and the installation of exhibition modules, with totems that will tell the story of the region, curated by Professor Ynaê Lopes dos Santos, a historian specializing in the history of slavery and racial relations in the Americas.


Understanding the Project Phases


The entire revitalization project had two stages: the first, started in 2019, was carried out in partnership with the U.S. Embassy. The work involved research to identify traces of archaeological importance on the site, as well as monitoring the start of works and the execution of conservation procedures, such as soil cleaning, erosion control, structural reinforcement of the wall, among other interventions.


The second phase was executed in partnership with State Grid Brazil Holding, through financing from the Social Investment for Companies - ISE line of BNDES. IDG developed and implemented the installation of the guardrail to protect the archaeological site and the public, constructed a new wall, implemented signage, installed the exhibition module, and the entire urbanistic project of the site. The lighting project for the historical site, developed by IDG and implemented by the Rio City Hall through RIOLUZ/SMARTLUZ, was designed to enhance the architectural features of the archaeological site and create a visual experience without compromising the archaeological integrity of the site. In scenic lighting, colored lights on monuments can be used on commemorative dates in support of social causes.


The signage project, based on technical guidelines from Iphan and UNESCO, integrates Cais do Valongo into the African heritage circuit in the region, connecting, through visual references and indicative signs, other points of interest such as Pedra do Sal, Jardim Suspenso do Valongo, and the Museum of Afro-Brazilian History and Culture - MUHCAB. Finally, with the aim of providing information to the public frequenting the site, an open-air exhibition on the current historical importance of Pequena África, its spaces, and territorial agents was implemented.


IDG also worked on the implementation of educational projects about Cais do Valongo. They developed and implemented, for example, 'Valongo, Cais de Ideias,' which trained educators to value the memories and stories of the site. 'A)gentes do Valongo' was directed towards the local population of the Port Zone, aiming to provoke the exchange of ideas and knowledge about the Archaeological Site and the activities of various agents in Pequena África. Ten virtual meetings were held with 20 institutions in the region and the participation of over 200 people who registered, including university students and tourism professionals from Rio.


Project History


In 2017, the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Iphan) and the Municipal City Hall of Rio de Janeiro - through the Municipal Secretariat of Culture, Municipal Secretariat of Education, and the Rio Institute of Heritage (IRPH) - represented the Brazilian government before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and signed the Archaeological Promotion Plan for Cais do Valongo. In the document, the mentioned institutions committed to developing and executing a plan to reinforce the exceptional universal value of the archaeological site and integrate it into the urban fabric of the city. The overall goal was to carry out research, promotion, and socialization actions to redefine the relationship between the cultural asset and its urban and landscape surroundings.


The projects developed by IDG were presented and discussed within the Management Committee of Cais do Valongo, the governance body for the World Heritage Cultural Asset, reinstated by Iphan Ordinance No. 88 in March 2023. Aimed at shared and participatory management of the site, the group consists of 15 institutions representing civil society and 16 governmental entities at the federal, state, and municipal levels. Among the participating institutions are the Ministry of Culture (Minc), the Palmares Foundation, and the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Ibram). Iphan coordinates the committee's work.


The essential objectives of the Management Committee include promoting the installation of an integral, shared, and participatory management structure for the site; establishing guidelines for the execution of actions proposed in the management plan; monitoring the effectiveness of government actions necessary for the preservation and safeguarding of the asset; and promoting coordination among municipal, state, and federal policies that impact the Archaeological Site.