I like art. I like various forms of expression, from music to sculpture to drawing. Graffiti has been growing on me. I know I'm late to the party.
I first paid close attention to this art form in Buenos Aires. There were so many tags and elaborate murals that I thought "this can't be illegal here".
Today, I learned that graffiti is big in South America. And that painting on Bogota's walls is a big deal.
Bogota's walls are covered with tags, stickers, paystubs and murals. Our guide, Jeff The Anthropologist, walked us through the streets of La Candelaria (old town) and told us about the evolution of this art form, its struggles and rules.
And it was fascinating.
Not so much. The Biebs actually poured some oil onto the fire when he tagged a wall under police escort just two years after a local graffiti artist was shot by the police.
Today was not a good day to proudly raise my hand when they asked for the Canadians in the groups to identify themselves. Thanks JB!
"His graffiti is as uninspired as his songs." Jeff The Anthropologist
Apparently, he drew the Canadian flag (with a canabis leaf instead of a maple leaf).
The death of the local street artist marks a turning point in Bogota's graffiti community.
Prohibited, but not illegal
One does not go to jail for painting. There may be a fine. But if an artist has both the city's and the building owner's permission, they are good to go.
This makes for some beautiful commissioned pieces. Like this luchador right in front of a Mexican restaurant.
Walls get painted over.
Modern love letter
The story, as told by our guide, goes a little like this.
Kiptoe, a graffiti artist from the US (?) comes to Bogota for 10 days. He meets a girl while painting a wall. Falls madly in love with her. Upon leaving the country, he paints this in her honour.
The inscription below: Hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo.
The women in the group all went: awwww.
The men fell silent.
(Say hello to Jeff The Anthropologist pictured below.)
Politics and social stance
Like any art form, graffiti is use to express emotions, political beliefs and social views.
Graffiti artists question the status quo, make virulent statements against politicians or tell the stories without a voice.
You may recognize the iconic picture reproduced in the mural above. It is that of one of the many children who participated in a protests a few years back.
If you're ever in Bogota, book this tour. It's free, but they do ask for donations. These will be well-spent pesos.