Inside Out: Mother, a Portrait celebrates the power of motherhood across Brazil!

More than 1,700 mothers from all 27 states of Brazil were photographed and displayed in a collage on the walls of Cidade do Samba and in a projection at Hotel Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro to show the world the different experiences and representations of what it means to be a mother.

Group Leader, Nina Soutoul
MAY, 12TH 2023

“Mother: A Portrait”, is a nationwide Action aimed to “make visible to the world the invisible work of hundreds of mothers” by addressing mental health for women in maternity throughout Brazil and the challenges they faced during the pandemic.

1,700 portraits were taken across 27 states in Brazil with the support of 162 women and mothers, who organized photoshoots in the largest cities countrywide. In addition, this Action included 5 Photobooth Activations, 90 interviews, 17 group workshops, and 120 press reports, including 6 TV interviews and 1 podcast.

Participant getting her portrait taken in Florianopolis, Brazil, 2022.

The portraits were displayed in a massive installation on the walls of Cidade do Samba and in a projection at the Hotel Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro in order to show the world the different experiences and representations of what it means to be a mother.

"Mãe Um Retrato" was conceived and produced by the co-director of Casa Amarela Providência Nina Soutoul, mother of Zion, who was inspired to create an Inside Out Action after a deeply personal and isolated experience during the pandemic: "I created the 'Inside Out - Mother, a portrait' in 2021, after becoming a mother. I had postpartum depression, and I always romanticized motherhood, but when I had my son, I realized how the daily work of mothers is invisible to society. The project was my attempt to make the work of mothers visible, showing different realities through the art of photography”, shares Nina.

Installation image of volunteers pasting posters at Cidade do Samba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 2023.

“‘Mãe Um Retrato’ is a clear illustration of how Inside Out Actions are a powerful tool for community building” stated Nina. During the portrait-taking process, photographers and volunteers conducted workshops with participants at each photoshoot location. They led conversation circles in which they shared and listened to the stories and experiences of mothers. These workshops brought participants closer together and created a space for them to talk about the urgency for more public policy that serves the basic needs of mothers and their children. 

Group workshop in Belford Roxo, Brazil. 

Further, during the photo shoot, organizers filmed testimonies of participants to show the current challenges mothers face; these were used to create a short documentary film and a podcast. In March and April 2023, 1,700 portraits were wheat-pasted on a historical building - the Cidade of Samba in Gamboa, a port area of Rio de Janeiro as a further celebration of the history of Little Africa. It was the first public art installation on its walls since the building’s construction 17 years ago.

Installation Image of Cidade do Samba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

The public was able to see the wheat-pasted portraits together with the 12 mega portraits of the mothers of samba that measure 9 meters in height by 6 meters in width. Through these photographs, we honor these women and their dedication to samba and raising their children, whether from the womb or from the heart. The matriarchs of the 12 samba schools shared their personal stories and how motherhood has impacted their lives:

“It is a story of love and true love. Mother's love"

“I lost my on a Monday during Carnival, at the Portela Parade. So I continue to be a mother, grandmother, grandmother, mother, who knows who I am. Knowing that this will spread my story to life, to the afterlife, really being a part of your project for me is so important.”

Installation Image of mega portrait at Cidade do Samba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After 3 weeks of pasting at Cidade do Samba in Rio de Janeiro, with the RuaWalls team, Nina shared:

"It was an incredible experience to see 4,000 square meters pasted over with portraits of mothers from all over Brazil. Every time I looked at the portraits, I was reminded of my interactions and experiences with these women. It was almost like getting a hug from them and hearing their stories all over again The collage deteriorated very quickly due to wind, rain, and strong sunlight on the wall... but I quickly made the connection with my motherhood - every day is different and so fickle, and that's how we mothers survive day after day understanding each other better in these waves of emotions and chaos."

Installation image of volunteers pasting posters at Cidade do Samba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 2023.

"I feel the fact that this rain that came before we got the final installation images is yet another proof that we have no control over anything. The project is ephemeral and this is how I experience motherhood. Time passes, day after day, experiencing a different state of being a mother, fighting against a system that does not recognize or support the hard and invisible work of mothers. This is a great achievement because it was a dream and a great healing process, but also the accomplishment of hundreds of other mothers who dreamed together.”

During the week of Mother's Day, portraits from the Inside Out project “Mãe Um Retrato” were displayed on the facade of the annex building of the Copacabana Palace Hotel for five nights, from Wednesday, May 10th, to Sunday, May 14th. Hundreds of mothers were made visible and seen from Copacabana Beach!

Image of portrait projection at  Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 2023

"Being able to bring the project to the walls of the Copacabana Palace is an important statement, showing that mothers deserve to be welcomed in all types of establishments and that they shouldn't feel excluded by the simple fact of being a mother or by the presence of their children. It is important to bring the Project to different places in the city, as it is a project of inclusion and diversity of mothers," concluded Nina.

We are strong. We are potent. We fight together. And this fight is political. We are mothers. We are visible. Mother, a Portrait.

Mega portrait projection at Hotel Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil May 2023

Learn more about this Action here.