We’ve written about the Bogota Graffiti Tour before here on the Colombia Travel Blog but, as you can imagine, with the growth of tourism in Colombia, not to mention the fluid nature of urban art, the tour has developed a great deal since those halcyon days of 2012! Plus, we have a shiny new camera that we didn’t have before, and, you know, any excuse to publish bright colorful street art photos…
The Bogota Graffiti Tour is the brainchild of Bogota-resident and Australian street artist, Crisp, who moved here several years ago. The true novelty and value of the tour is in the wealth and variety of cutting edge street art that can be found around the Colombian capital: this isn’t just the ‘tags’ that many people dismiss graffiti for, but high level artistic expression which has found it’s place among the street of Bogota. Gigantic murals and tiny, hidden social commentary, fuse together and gives La Candelaria, the location of the tour, the feel of a living, breathing art gallery…the walls don’t just have ears here…they have thousands of eyes too (thanks to Pez!) N.B. Due to my new knowledge of street art, that was a street-art joke – Pez is an artist who’s obsessed with eyes…I know, explaining a joke kind of ruins it…just do the tour!
The tour was led by Anna, a German tour guide clearly possessing deep knowledge of urban art, and is also often led by Crisp, many of whose pieces can be seen throughout the tour. The guides display a real passion and understanding of the scene and the creation of the art itself; I found myself surfing the internet when I got home, trying to understand more about the movement; a spark of interest ignited by a passionate and engaging tour. This was one of the bonuses of the graffiti tour: being able to recognize the signature styles of many popular artists, I am now able to engage more actively with the street art that I see everyday throughout Bogota.
What’s so great about this tour is not just the increased appreciation of the intricacies and methods of street-art, but the engagement with the political and social message at the heart of much of the work seen here. Colombian (and foreign) street artists are often deeply politicized and their art has much to say about Colombia’s politics, social problems, ecosystems and nature. Crisp’s art often involves images of Colombia’s natural heritage, such as animals and birds; Guache’s colorful indigenous images recall these often overlooked groups; DJ Lu’s images of pineapple/grenades and AK-47’s with crutches have a sharp political message. It can be all too easy for backpackers and travelers to pass through Colombia and never really engage with the history and politics of the country, but the Bogota Graffiti tour is an excellent entry point into the problems and challenges facing modern Colombian society.
The tour is clearly thriving; our group numbered somewhere in the region of 25 people, from all corners of the globe. This is great to see: in my view it’s essential for visitors to Colombia to not only visit museums and cathedrals but also to engage with the modern cultural perspective of young Colombians, and to try to understand a little of why Colombia is the way it is: this tour allows them to do that in a safe, interesting context, and also offers a neat little introductory walking tour of La Candelaria at the same time. Even if you’re only passing through the capital for a day or two, I would highly recommend making the Bogota Graffiti tour a priority activity…if only to boost your hip credentials next time urban art comes up at your local artisan coffee shop!
Practicals: The Bogota Graffiti Tour runs daily between 10am and 12/12:30pm. It leaves from Plaza de los Periodistas near to Las Aguas Transmilenio stop in La Candelaria. Contact them from their website to confirm departures. It’s technically a free tour, but donations are asked for at the end (the recommended amount is 20/30.000COP – be generous as the tours run on these donations and it’s thoroughly deserved for an in-depth tour lasting over 2 hours. Brings some sun-cream and/or an umbrella for Bogota’s unpredictable weather – you’ll be outside the entire time.