Pablo, drugs, coffee – probably the top three things that come to mind when I say Colombia! What about internationally recognised street art? Not so much! It was a surprise to Craig and I too; in fact our whole trip to Colombia was packed with debunking the stereotype of the country as a war zone.
Travellers will tell you – do not miss Bogota’s Graffiti Tour. And they’re right, it is mighty impressive. Rey and Jay the tour guides, are street artist too, part American, part Colombian, fully passionate. The tour meets at Parque de Los Periodistas twice per day (10am and 2pm) and takes you all over the streets of La Candelaria (a popular area for travellers). It lasts for two hours and is paid for through tips, like most South American city walking tours.
The guides stops at different artwork and tell you the story behind it. For example Rodez, Nomada and Malegria – the father / son street artists! Talk about keeping it in the family.
Education and Street Art
The high school in Bogota has taken a positive view of this street art. There is a wall which is solely in place to give young people a safe space to work on their technique. The area is lit with floodlights and police protection is available. The school also invites local artists to teach school kids the art of graffiti, this blows my mind. Remember how much crap you’d get in for writing your name of the desk never mind tagging the school walls?!
Graffiti is a tourist attraction in Bogota. Artists from all over the world visit to work on the walls of Colombia’s capital city. In order to find a blank canvas aka building wall, artists ask permission of the business owner, who are normally happy for the work to go ahead. They see it as free décor! Some businesses even commission artists to add a splash of colour to their façade, for example Casa Bellavista Hostel and the artist PEZ.
Politics and Paint
The street art in Bogota is not just about pretty colours. Many of the pieces have a story to tell, and some of those stories are a big F.U to the government. Colombia has gone through decades of pain in the very recent past and people want to talk about it. DjLu is one artist at the forefront of political street art. He creates images such as pineapples as grenades and bugs with guns as wings through the use of photographs, freehand, and stencils. The police a pretty lenient on artists these days according to Rey. City Ordinance Tickets can be issued which are similar to parking fines. This has meant that artists are less likely to creep about in the dark to get their artwork on the walls which is created a safer community for the graffiti artists.
Gender and the Spray
Can What’s refreshing about the Colombian street art scene is that there are female artists who have created important work which is also celebrated such as Bastardilla who used rollers and ping pong balls full of paint to create this…
In all honesty, Bogota is grim! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun city with lots of culture and parks but it rains most days and the grey buildings are tall and are getting taller! Bogota’s street art is very much required to give disgruntled citizens a voice and a creative outlet as well brightening up those grey days
Two Scots Abroad (Gemma and Craig) have downed tools as teacher and tradesman and are traveling the Americas and Europe on an 18 month career break. They are currently living in Vancouver after four months of fast paced travel in South America and Cuba. Join them in 2016 as they ski in B.C, surf in Nicaragua, and party in Ibiza!