On Thursday I spent 3 hours walking around Bogota’s Old Town, also known as La Candeleria. I have stayed there for 8 nights in total, and have been enamored of its cobblestone streets and its vibrant charm. One obvious characteristic of this area is it’s street art. Sure, I looked and it wowed, but going on a free graffiti walking tour really opened my eyes further than I thought it would. To the trained eye, a rich world of political protest, injustice, and animal protection comes alive on the city walls.
Please comment your opinions on the themes and pieces, I am really excited to hear your thoughts about these themes as they are quite heavy issues.
Take this image for example. At first glance it seems like a colourful hummingbird, which indeed it is of course, but it is also much more than that. APC is the Colombian Animal Power group, a convergence of street artists who are dedicated to demonstrating Colombia’s rich biodiversity in the hope of conservation (Colombia is 1st in the world for birds and orchids, and 2nd in general). You can see this in countless beautiful examples around the Candelaria. What’s cool about this hummingbird also is that it uses no stencils, pure free spraying. Did you notice the flower continues on the ceiling?
Colombia has one of the highest rates of displacement in the world. Put simply, the government or large corporations (such as fruit or oil companies) want to use land that a Colombian owns. If he refuses to sell, the best scenario is that he lives and starts from zero in a new city, after losing his home, his land, his lifestyle, his income. The worst case scenario, he gets killed. You see many examples of symbolism such as the pineapple grenade or the oil rig noose.
These shocking stencils represent the social injustice and displacement in Colombia.
Armed Conflict in Colombia
A lot of you will hear the country’s name and think conflict and drugs. I can’t even begin to describe how much more there is to this beautiful country, but it is true that these issues still exist. Currently there are peace talks in Cuba between the government ban the FARC, and Colombians are sick of the fighting. They want peace.
The Collaboration between Artists and Landlords
It’s great to see so much art around the area. It wasn’t always like this; the council would paint over the art and the blank wall would be filled tagging. These days there is a winning collaboration between artists and landlords – if the message is not political, landlords provide the wall and artists provide the beautiful. It avoids excessive tagging in the area, attracts business and gives the artists exposure.
A tragic story resulting in beauty
One story that really angered me and many Colombians was a case in 2011 where a 16 year old street artist was shot in the back by police. He was painting when the police neared and he was frightened, running away. The policeman tried to say he thought he was armed, but has since been arrested and prosecuted after the street artist community in Colombia banded together and demanded justice.
The most aggravating part about this occurence? Justin Bieber got a police escort to paint the walls of Bogotá with his own art shortly after.
Since then, the laws have changed. Technically street art is still illegal in Colombia, but it is not enforced. The country asked itself “how can we justify the death of a youth for the same thing we permitted an international star to do soon after?”
Going to Colombia?
Register for the free walking tour here: http://bogotagraffiti.com/
Others beautiful pieces I saw, each has its own story: