The first stop on my trip to Colombia was Bogotá. One of the best things you can do on your first day in the Colombian capital is to join a street art tour. Bogotá exceeds when it comes to street art and the works tell a lot about the history and social topics of the city. I joined the street art tour of Bogotá Graffiti Tour, supervised by tour guide Anna. This tour is free and it departs twice a day from Parque de Los Periodistas. Though you do not have to pay anything to join, the guides do appreciate it if you tip them at the end (between 5 and 8 euros is recommended). In this blog post, I will show you what you can expect to see on this street art tour in Bogotá.
Why is there so much street art in Bogota?
From a shooting to a street art revolution
Since 2011, street art has grown tremendously in Bogotá. In that year, 16-year old artist Diego Felipe Becerra was shot dead by the police, while he was working on a mural. The police claimed that Diego was an armed criminal and they had to defend themselves. No one believed this. Within a couple of days, the streets were filled with protestors. Killing someone because he was creating street art was not acceptable. The city council decided to issue a decree to promote street art as a legitimate art expression. Artists were allowed to create murals on pre-selected walls, but also on other walls street art and graffiti was popping up more and more.
The Bieber incident
The story continues. In 2013 Justin Bieber visited Bogotá. After his concert, Bieber sprayed a maple leaf on a wall, while he was with a police escort. The police were notorious for their violent attitude against street art artists. As a reaction to the mural of Bieber, artists from all over Colombia organized a street art marathon. Not only Bogotá participated, but also artists from Medellin and Cali joined. Within 24 hours 700 works were created. The message of the marathon: artists demanded the same respect from the police as Bieber received.
Prohibited but not illegal
What is the current state of street art in Colombia? Officially street art is prohibited. If you get caught creating street art or graffiti, you will most likely get a fine. But if you have the permission of the property owner and you stay away from government property, then you are good to go. In La Candelaria, I noticed that a lot of shops and houses were colorfully painted with street art. Our guide told us that owners often see street art as a way to avoid pollution and tagging. There is an unwritten code among artists that you simply do not paint or spray over each other’s works. Once you have a mural on the wall of your shop, it will stay there. Moreover, it is way nicer to look at a colorful wall than a boring brick wall.
Social & political themes
The street art in Bogotá has a couple of themes. First of all, there is an indigenous community theme. An example of this is the colorful portrait of the Cuna woman, created by Carlos Trilleras. Women are a general theme in more works around La Candelaria. Furthermore, social issues are also often used for street art. Corruption, poverty, and violence. An example of this is the black, white, and red painting of the collective DJ LU, Toxicomano, and Gauche. If you look closely, you will see pineapples that look quite similar to grenades. This refers to the many landmines that are located in fertile soil. Whatever the theme may be, almost all works have one thing in common: the colors pop!
Would you like to see the street art in Bogotá?