Brazil may be out of the World Cup, but there are reasons to be cheerful

Oscar Niemeyer: the man who built Brasilia

They may have been humiliated at the World Cup, but culturally, Brazilians still have plenty to be proud of

You could be forgiven for thinking the only things that had ever taken place during centuries of Brazilian history were five World Cup wins, Pele and samba. But 200 million people live in Brazil, and believe it or not, they don’t all play football. The seleção may have crashed out of the world cup in spectacular fashion, but leaders in the fields of design, art, medicine and cooking mean Brazilians still have plenty to feel good about as a nation. Twentieth century Brazilian architecture produced a number of the world’s best structures, some of the most respected films of the past 20 years have been Brazilian and a renewed interest in South American cuisine has raised the profile of Brazilian chefs the world over. From the cook who rediscovered the ingredients of the Amazon to the surgeon who invented a life-saving technique to one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, Brazilian national pride doesn’t have to live or die with the progress of the national football team.

So Brazilians: dry your eyes and console yourselves with these six great men and women who have absolutely nothing to do with football.

Fernando Meirelles
Fernando Meirelles is the man behind the 2002 movie City of God

Fernando Meirelles

Film
Brazil’s film-makers range from small-scale indie auteurs (Walter Salles: The Motorcycle Diaries) to animation specialists (Carlos Saldanha: Ice Age and Rio), but there’s one movie that comes to everyone’s lips in discussions about the Brazilian film industry: City of God. Fernando Meirelles (pictured) was nominated for an Academy Award for the picture, and City of God’s commercial and critical success paved the way for a transition to big budgeted films with A-list stars. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for The Constant Gardener in 2005.

Mira Schendel
Mira Schendel is finally gaining recognition, thirty years after her death

Mira Schendel

Art

One of the most important South American artists of the 20th century, Mira Schendel is finally getting the recognition her work deserves almost three decades after her death in 1988. Schendel’s paintings, sculptures and rice-paper drawings are legendary in Brazil – where she fled as a Jewish refugee from Italy during the Second World War – but only recently has the rest of the world caught on. Last year, the Tate Modern staged the first ever full-scale retrospective of her life’s work. It won rave reviews.

Oscar Niemeyer
Oscar Niemeyer planned and developed Brazil's federal capital - Brasilia

Oscar Niemeyer

Architecture

"I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing sensual curves.” So said Oscar Niemeyer, one of the best architects of the twentieth century and the man who built Brasilia. Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janeiro in the early twentieth century and died over a century later in 2012 at the age of 104. He was influenced by Le Corbusier and had an unmatched artistry when it came to concrete.

Alex Atala
Alex Atala's restaurant DOM in Sao Paulo is one of the best in the world (Source: AFP/Getty Images)

Alex Atala

Food

Head chef at Sao Paulo’s DOM, Alex Atala is one of the best chefs in the world. Time magazine named him one of their 100 most influential people in the world for “shaping a better food culture for Latin America.” And how did he do it? By incorporating the continent’s vast natural riches into the world of haute cuisine. The heavily tattooed former punk-rocker’s use of ingredients from the Amazon rainforest won him plaudits the world over, and last year DOM was named sixth in the coveted San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World. This year he won the Chef’s Choice award. His menu at DOM includes raw amazonian ants, brazil nut milk and pupunha palm hearts.

Carol Gay
Carol Gay is a much sought after furniture designer

Carol Gay

Design

Contemporary Brazilian furniture is increasingly sought after by wealthy collectors around the globe. With classic and contemporary collections, Candice Fauchon and Paul Viguier’s James Gallery in Paris has provided a link between Brazilian design talent and European buyers. Carol Gay is one of the hot young names promoted by the gallery. Gay’s furniture mixes slick, minimal forms with random, everyday materials and objects. Her work was recently featured in Isto e Una Mesa, a large exhibition in Rio’s National Historical Museum.

Adib Domingos Jatene
Surgeon Adib Domingos Jatene is responsible for saving countless lives

Adib Domingos Jatene

Medicine

It’s impossible to gauge just how many lives have been saved by the Jatene, an operation to aid respiration in newborn and premature babies. The man from which the procedure gets its name, Adib Domingos Jatene, is a Brazilian surgeon, professor and politician of Lebanese descent. The first seven years of his life were spent on the border of the Amazon rainforest, and he watched his father die of yellow fever when he was just two years old. There are six million Lebanese Brazilians, a massive figure considering there are only four million in Lebanon itself.

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