Yesterday we traveled to Caju Cemetery. The experience between Sao Joao Batista and Caju were quite incredible. Caju is divided into four separate zones which are directly adjacent, but have distinct points of entry.

Upon entering the first zone, we walked in between two chapels, both of which were holding the traditional viewing of the dead with families gathered around. People were arriving and sitting in and around the chapel paying their respects to the lost loved ones.

In this cemetery we found conditions similar to that of Sao Joao Batista. The typology of tombs/graves/mausoleums/walls was similar. However, in this first cemetery of Caju, the wall was not on the periphery of the cemetery, but instead in the center and seemed less associated with social or economic standing.

In the second zone at the periphery we found groupings of incredibly modest graves made of rough stone, simple marking and abutting undeveloped landscapes. Some of the graves were in disrepair with cracks and even holes which we found more surprising when we began to notice that most of the dates on the graves were marked from 2004 and on.

Entering the third zone of the Caju cemetery we found the Jewish cemetery whose space organization was clearer and more consistent. At the beginning of the main part of the cemetery there was a domain devoted to the childrens graves as well as a separate sheltered area probably devoted  to synagogue leaders. At the periphery of this cemetery there were mausoleums with specific typology: two graves with multiple names on them and a simple solitary bench for a visitor.

We also found it interesting that the tombstones were produced on-site at the cemetery, something we haven’t witnessed until now.

Visiting  Sugarloaf later in the afternoon we had the chance to view the city from a highest level and realize the development of the urban fabric within the topography. As the weather changed, the view transformed and the perception of the city shifted.


sao joao batista – located in botafogo, opened in 1851 and is the only cemetery in the south zone of rio. though incredible and interesting for many reasons – scale/location/upkeep (or lack thereof) – the most relevant to our studies is the reflection of the urban layout as replicated at the scale of the cemetery. as in the living city of rio, the poor are placed on the hills above, overlooking the city.

the make-up of the cemetery is such that the wealthy, buried in above ground tombs and mausoleums, line the main pathways of the cemetery, occupying the well-kept zones, while the the lower eschelons of society are placed in walls comprised of drawers at the periphery of the cemetery.

the walls are built into hillsides and at points fall directly below a favela that is built into the hill above at the southwest corner of the cemetery. consequently, these locations have the best views of the cemetery and the surrounding city.

there were very few visitors at the cemetery when we arrived, but we witnessed a visiting the grave in the image above and as she left she walked away from the grave facing it.

The Haji Ali Dargah (shrine) is set just off the coast of South Mumbai, with a narrow causeway connecting the mosque to the shore. Surrounded by water at high tide and mud flats when the tide goes out, Haji Ali offers pilgrims and visitors different experiences dependent upon the changing tidal conditions. I visited at low tide, when the city’s lack of adequate toilets for its inhabitants becomes apparent by the unpleasant stench arising from the city’s newly revealed border between land and sea.

The shrine is visited by both Muslims and Hindus; both groups make the pilgrimage here to Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari’s tomb in hopes of receiving the saint’s blessings. At the point of arrival at the mosque, men and women separate and enter the shrine from opposite sides. They then approach the tomb from different directions and are physically but not visually separated as they get as close as possible to the entombed saint.

A tree outside of the shrine, where pilgrims tie strings for good luck.

hello, rio! [caption id="attachment_882" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Sao Joao Batista"][/caption] today is our first full day and we're off to visit the Cemiterio Sao Joao Batista. we attempted to visit last night only to find out that people don't visit the cemetery for tourism. a woman who was kind enough to translate communicated to the groundskeepers that we were students studying death and architecture in the city. after a bit of laughing and strange looks we were invited to come back this morning. we will make the trek once more, hopefully with better luck! after, we will visit pedro rivera at PUC where he is teaching to attend some of his student reviews. this will be followed by a visit to studio x and a meeting with Flavio Ferreira, an architect who has designed a cemetery. more updates to follow!

The Worli Sea Link, completed in 2009, links Worli to Bandra, part of the western suburbs. The bridge reduces travel between the two parts of the city by car from 45-60 minutes to 7 minutes during peak hours. While this is a huge improvement for the small percentage of Mumbaikars who commute by car,  almost 90% of commuters use the city’s massively overcrowded trains to reach their workplaces. So, this $3.25 million infrastructural investment affects only those city dwellers (29 per 1000 residents) who have the luxury of owning a car.

Infrastructure on the way to Bandra

Crossing over the Worli Sea Link on the way to Bandra from South Bombay

On Tuesday, I traveled over the Worli Sea Link to Bandra, where I spoke with a Sunni Muslim cleric, Mohamed Tariq. Hanifa Ahmedi, who works with a friend of my brother, hosted us at her home and kindly translated between Mr. Tariq, who spoke Urdu, and myself. In my conversation with Mr. Tariq, I hoped to learn more about the history and rituals surrounding Muslim burial as well as his thoughts regarding a potential dearth of space for burial in dense, urban centers.

Mr. Tariq informed me that the origins of the Islamic tradition of burying the dead began with the burial of the prophets, who taught that we are made from the soil and hence, we return to the soil. He told me that unlike cremation, which creates both air pollution as well as an odor, the Muslim method of burying the dead directly in the earth does not cause any pollution and allows nature to take its own course. When I pressed Mr. Tariq to consider the possibility of spatial constraints, he did not believe that Muslims would ever resort to cremation, but that perhaps some other method of disintegrating the body could be utilized, though nothing like this is officially sanctioned in Islam. He also informed me that because Muslims can re-use a grave after just 6 months (he claimed that the body, apart from the bones, disintegrates within 3 months), that space for burial is not an issue. While in Christianity and Judaism, burial is typically associated with individual memorial, the re-use of graves in Islamic burial leads to more shared spaces of memorial.

I asked both Hanifa and Mr. Tariq about the place of women in Muslim burial and received different answers from them, demonstrating the range of practices existing across the different sects of Islam. Hanifa informed me that within her tradition, women are granted access to the gravesites of their loved ones but, according to Mr. Tariq, it is best for women not to enter kabristans because ‘their hearts are soft’ and because it could lead to the improper mixing of men and women.