Street art is often a form of protest and social commentary. Bogotá, Colombia–where the political power of street art plays out around recurring themes of social injustice, anti-capitalism and war and peace–is no exception.
War, peace, and the “disappeared” in Bogotá street art
Colombia is (slowly) emerging from more than 50 years of ongoing violence, armed conflict, and civil war, but the damage has been done. According to the New York Times more than 220,000 people have been killed and more than 40,000 have simply disappeared. The country is ranked #1 in the world in terms of “internally displaced persons” because it’s estimated that nearly six million Colombian citizens have fled their homes and moved to other areas of the country to escape violence. According to the UNHCR, Sudan has half that many internally displaced persons.
It should surprise no one that street artists often articulate a rage about the high cost of war and the slow search for peace (the Colombian government and FARC rebels were in peace talks for years before signing an agreement in 2017) that is shared by many.
The Memoria work, above, is even more poignant because it’s located across the street from the Centro de Memoria, Paz y Reconciliation. Opened in 2012, the Center of Memory, Peace and Reconciliation was designed to create a space where the violence and loss of the past could be recognized and honored in a way that allowed everyone to move forward to peace without forgetting the human cost of war. Thousands of test tubes of earth from massacre sites around Colombia were installed in an abandoned section of a cemetery which itself is a charged site to begin with because it’s where victims of the revolt of June 9, 1948, regarded as the beginning of decades of violence in Colombia, were taken.
Greed and inequality in Bogotá street art
Social injustice and the divide between “haves” and “have nots” is profound in Colombia and that’s rich fodder for Bogotá’s politically minded street artists.
Environmental street art in Bogotá
Mining and oil extraction form a large part of Colombia’s GDP and there’s growing discontent about environmental threats and policies in the country. Many of those complaints and fears play out on the streets.
Want more about the artists? Check our Bogotá street art 101 post.
Here’s more about travel in Colombia