Monday, January 14, 2013

Colombian Street Art

As promised this post is about the murals and graffiti in the two most populated cities of Colombia: Bogota and Medellin.

With a population of about eight million people Bogota is enormous and constantly growing. And for every foot of growth there is a new foot of graffiti on a wall somewhere in the city. On a drive through some of the main streets in congested traffic from the Bogota airport to the small town of Silvania 70 km away I lost count of the amount of graffiti that I saw. There was literally graffiti on every wall that wasn't protected by an armed security guard, a gate, or simply too high to reach - which were most walls. No buildings were safe, not even the Supreme Court of Colombia, El Palacio de Justicia.

Most of the graffiti are slogans of political protest, and although I'm a fan of the messages I'm not of the means of deliverance. Also, during times of protest Colombians have figured out a solution to marking spaces on walls that are too high or far to reach - they throw paint bombs.

Not all the buildings are covered in graffiti (much less in Medellin) even though it seems like most of those in Bogota are, especially those that get the most viewing like in touristic destinations and along the busiest road sides. The majority of graffiti seems to be quick, easy tags that name people, possible gangs, and political dissidence. That type of graffiti is not what I consider art. Art takes time and involves a thought process. Art takes creativity.  You don't just walk up to a wall, scribble your name, and call that art. In my opinion mindless graffiti is just as ugly a pollutant as littered sidewalks (even if I agree with the writing on the wall).

Fortunately these enormous cities are much more than a bunch of delinquents with spray paint; there are many talented street artists as well and their work compensates for the tagging that others do. The  pictures below represent just a tiny portion of the wall art I saw while in Colombia. So much of it was viewed through the windows of a taxi, a bus, or the metro that it was impossible to photograph them all. But you'll get the gist of it - Colombian street art is amazing and varied. 

 *the noise of weapons doesn't allow ideas to be heard*

*vaccinate against aggression*

 *intelligence doesn't mean knowing a lot, it means being wrong a little*

 *us ugly ones have more style*

*plants don't kill*

*always play*

*we always need to recreate a language that shows respect for women, because if we walked a moment in their shoes we would feel outraged*

I took these last few pictures in a historic barrio of Bogota called La Candelaria and if you're wondering why a city of eight million people seems so empty based on some of these pictures it's because I photographed them on the morning of January 1st, dia festivo (day of rest), so the majority of Colombians were indoors sleeping off hangovers and taking it easy. 

We had planned on celebrating New Year's Eve like everyone else and even bought the necessary beer, champagne, and aguardiente - which I didn't drink much of due to a cold - but my brother's flight to the states was scheduled to leave after midnight so we rang in 2013 at 9:30 PM. We all ate tamales, swished back a glass of nasty sparkling wine and stuffed twelve grapes into our mouths, making a wish for the new year with each one - as per the Colombian tradition. When my parents and James left for the airport thirty minutes later I was already falling asleep in my sister's hotel room so the rest of us called it a night. I remember hearing the fireworks at midnight and contemplated getting up to look at them but the warmth of the bed and Chris by my side kept me firmly in place. Exciting, no?

More Colombia pictures to come!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Great pics. Very colorful. The words added some color too. Can't wait for the next pic heavy post. Keep em coming. Also, I actually liked the color bombs on the church and Supreme Court. Adding a little color bomb never hurt anyone...