January 24, 2018

Mariana Mancini, art foundation co-founder

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Córdoba carioca

By Sorrel Moseley-Williams
For The Herald
Age: 36
Lives: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
From: Córdoba
Education: Law degree, Master’s in cultural administration, both at UN Córdoba
Profession: Co-founder of Fundación Melian Arte y Cultura Latinoamericana
Just read: Las ciudades invisibles
Just seen: Niebla
Gadget: My iPhone 7+

A lawyer by trade, Córdoba-born Mariana Mancini was working for a law firm in London when the opportunity arose to transfer to Rio de Janeiro six years ago. Seizing it, she made an about-turn with regards to her her career to co-found an art foundation.

Mariana says: “I ended up in Brazil after a job offer for a law firm so I moved from London back to South America in 2011. I found Rio de Janeiro to be very welcoming, in fact it felt quite a bit like Argentina.

“I’d visited the south of Brazil as a tourist and it was everything I expected and more. Vibrant, fun and very welcoming. I met some amazing people when you walk into a place and feel at home, well, it was that kind of feeling. And I left law behind after setting up an art foundation with my business partner: we host shows and events around Latin America.”

Relaxed Rio

Coming from the UK, Mariana found the lack of punctuality to be the biggest cultural difference in the Marvellous City. She says: “It was very relaxed compared to London; everyone is pretty down to earth and you can’t rely on people meeting you at any given time, they do have the excuse that traffic is really bad in Rio! Everyone is so nice though, so you forgive them!

“I also found Brazilians weren’t as much into politics as Argentines, or Brits talking about the weather. But that’s been changing over the past three or four years: they talk about politics more.”

In the early days, Mariana was looking for an authentic experience and streets clear of the touristy areas. She says: “When I first moved to Brazil, I moved into an area with no foreigners, close to the international airport. It was an amazing experience as I got to see carioca life; it was homey and interesting. It wasn’t a postcard of Rio with beaches; I was far away from all that.

“Now I live in Barra da Tijuca, which is the Miami of Rio so it doesn’t have as much soul but it’s safe. It was easy to move there plus it was cheaper. I live in an apartment, like a condo, where we share amenities. I know most of my neighbours, the dogs’ names, the kids’ names. Everyone is very chatty and friendly for a big city.”

Art foundation

Leaving law behind was an easy decision, and the opportunity arose in Rio to tackle a brand-new area, she says.

“My business partner and I were both fed up with conflicts regarding environmental law and corporate law. Via Fundación Melian Arte y Cultura Latinoamericana, we organise art events, hosting a week of art to promote Latin American artists.

“We also help them find the right galleries and fairs, and how they present their portfolios. We basically do a bit of everything, even selling works, and always have new projects coming in, which keeps it interesting. We’ve taken some artists to China and Australia and Miami in the US. We try to get them known in the scene and partner up with other institutions that have bigger projects. We also raise money for them to get published or create an art book. We work with emerging artists as well as more established ones, but we’ve consistently worked since we set up the foundation for six years. I’m much happier now.”

Carnival takeover

One can’t live in Rio and not notice Carnival, an annual event that Mariana embraces. She adds: “For me, it’s the most democratic party in the whole world. It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s symbolic because the mayor hands over the keys of the city to Momo, king of the carnival, and it really feels like a real takeover.

“Cariocas take it differently though: some practise dance at samba school during the year while others take a holiday. Some people are fascinated by Carnival and work all year toward it and others aren’t. When you’re from Brazil and have been to Carnival every single year, it’s not as fun if you have to work!

“A lot of Brazilians think the working year starts after Carnival so it’s two months off. You don’t get much done in January or February. To be honest, I danced once, and always get together with friends and party in the street. I love it. The energy of the city is unique.”

In her spare time, the Córdoba transplant admits she’s into extreme sports. She says: “I’m a glider pilot so I try to do that when I can, plus I also kitesurf. I like radical sports! I also go trekking in the mountains; I’m very outdoorsy. I also enjoy going to galleries and art shows. I keep myself busy! I don’t get to glide so much in Rio as, like the city, the air there is pretty crowded too so I go elsewhere to do it!”

As for friends, Mariana socialises with people from all over the world. She says: “When the World Cup took place, I realised I had quite a few Argentine friends! I also have friends from Australia, Africa and the US. Rio became more international over the past few years, when Brazil was doing much better economically, and that was appealing. Lots of big oil companies are based here and that brings in a lot of people from the US and Europe.”

Many countries in one

Mariana loves travelling around her adopted home and mixes up trips. “Brazil is so big that you feel like you’re in different countries. In February I went to the Amazon and it was like being somewhere totally different. In Manaus people look and speak differently, the colours and smells are very vibrant. I thought it was amazing, and worth getting out of the touristy areas of Brazil. That said, São Paulo is also amazing.”

As for her most Brazilian characteristic, she says, “I love to dance and love Brazilian music, it’s amazing. There are a few live music samba clubs in Lapa, the most bohemian part of the city, and I go quite a bit.”

Besides her friends and family in Córdoba, Mariana misses beef and good red wine.

“I long for decent Malbec that doesn’t cost a crazy amount of money. We get a lot of wine from Portugal and Chile, which is nice but it’s not our gorgeous Malbec.”



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