Bare brick houses stacked one on top of another cling to the hills of Rio de Janeiro.

Raw sewage trickles down the winding paths of these shanty towns, known as favelas, and in many, shootouts between drug dealing gangs and police are a daily ritual.

The shanty towns are resented and feared by the rest of the city.

But residents in the Santa Marta slum have transformed their community into a living, breathing canvas.

With the help of two Dutch artists and a pioneering paint firm, the main square is now a kaleidoscope of color.

“It gives the community life!” said Edimar Marcelinho Franco, who helped paint the 34 buildings and walked away with a professional painting title.

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