The theme chosen for the mosaic was ‘Las Manos de Todos’, – ‘The Hands of Many’ this theme reflected ideas of the community uniting together to build and improve their environment, and nicely summarised the communal effort necessary to realise a work of this scale.
The road to Paradise
The journey from the city to the site in the centre of the Paraiso barrio was a long journey into the Ciudad Bolivar area, culminating in a local bus which slowly wound it’s way up the mountain to the top where Paraiso perched precariously overlooking the panorama of Bogota sprawling beneath it.
Drawing out stories of the displaced indigenous peoples.
Although most of the workshops with the local community had already taken place I was able to attend one important workshop. Myself and the Ink Crew team attended a workshop with a group of displaced indigenous local residents. In the workshop I learnt more about the tragic story of many indigenous tribes from the remote parts of Colombia. Different tribes but with one story, of being forced from their homelands by drug linked criminal and paramilitary violence, peoples from the remotest parts of Colombia who now found themselves living in the barrios of Bogota. Following this meeting I spoke with an Emberá-Wounaan representative whose people originate from the border regions with Panama and he asked if I could incorporate some of their indigenous designs.
The brilliant imagination of graffiti masters
The beauty of working with Ink Crew was their great design imagination and the fact that they were not phased by scale. The Ink Crew artists had taken part in the community consultations and came up with imaginative responses. Graffiti masters Skida, Ospen, Kops and Dexs soon had their designs sketched out on the wall and work began on the giant mosaic. I had initially planned not to add my own design work apart from the overall pulling together of the designs created. But the creative freedom of the Ink Crew artists drew me in and after talking to the Emberá-Wounaan representative I incorporated new designs into the scheme.
Hard work pays off
What followed were three hard weeks of solid mosaic making, direct onto the wall. Making the mosaic proved quite a local attraction and we soon had a regular group of young helpers in addition to some local community members and the full force of Ink Crew’s extended network of artists and community activists.
The long slow labour intensive trudge of cutting tesserae and placing mosaic is something I have both become used to, and even love, for the graffiti artists however I think it was a bit of a shock, being used to creating their murals sometimes quite literally overnight. But despite the initial shock they all worked solidly, determined to complete this immense task. Ink Crews extended links to the community proved invaluable as help came to complete this immense mosaic. And of course we were never short of local children who were always keen to join in.
The finished mosaic celebrates the communities of Paraiso. For me this is art at the frontline of community engagement, showing that we can all come together to improve our environment and that life for all people of the world should include both ‘Bread and Roses’. For me the project transformed my views of just how much can be achieved. Ink Crew revitalised my vision of the vital life of working out on the streets and the crucial importance of engaging with local communities. I hope I can bring that energy back to London and I hope that one day I will meet my good friends in Bogota again… Ink Crew made a lovely video of the project which you can see here – Las Manos de Todos – Finding paradise in the barrios of Bogota You can read about Gary’s first project in Colombia during the Bienniel Street and Mural Arts Festival in Cali hereSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
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