The residents of Buenavista, a neighborhood located in Bogotá’s north, have a new connection to the art world that’s brick deep when a “macro mural” was inaugurated last month by the mayoralty, District Department of Habitat and Orbis-Pintuco Foundation.
This hillside barrio decided to add buckets of color to their reputation as an insecure community, off-limits to outsiders. But, after 74,000 square-meters of walls were transformed into a garish kaleidoscope of hues and pantones, “Sol Lunar” is now the largest community mural in Colombia, and locals are hoping this Sun Moon inspired work will become part of an “experience tour” in a city widely regarded as a pioneer of street art.
With support from local urban artists, including representatives from Mexico and Ecuador, the Sol Lunar tour offers visitors the chance to admire the mural from various vantage points in the barrio, as well as appreciate 26 smaller works that tell a story of urban renewal and social cohesion through art.
“We know that color doesn’t feed children, nor educate or cure illnesses. However, experience has shown us, that there’s a different way of doing things,” says Miguel Ayala, director of the Orbis-Pintuco Foundation. “Through paint donations, we have been able to rekindle a sense of belonging of the people who inhabit their homes, public spaces, and educational facilities,” believes Ayala.
Since their founding in 2016, the Habitarte community-led beautification project has intervened 66 barrios in Bogotá, as part of the beautification initiative. “We are only a momentary actor in the development of the communities,” says Ayala. Besides paint, the intervention includes training courses, leadership workshops, festivities to strengthen community life, and arts and cultural events that “orientate towards sustainability.”
It was the existence of the sun and moon mural that inspired the inhabitants of Buenavista to seek their own model of economic sustainability by creating an “experience tour” that weaves its way through a warren of brightly painted streets. Led by the community leader, Temilde Chocontá, the tour committee has received support from the District Institute for Community Participation and Action to strengthen and develop tourism opportunities in the sector. Over the last couple of months, the community has guided 230 visitors in seven tours. In August, six local guides began a training process called “Leaders of tourism 2018.”
The tour takes approximately 2 hours during which visitors are guided past seven different “experience bases,” such as the environment, production, and art, among others. At the different stops, visitors can observe a piece of urban art or watch a dance show while local inhabitants recount their personal stories of how their lives have been transformed by the social integration owing to the arrival of paint.
One of the stops along the way is the Casa de la Cultura. Thanks to the support of Habitarte, this once abandoned building is now covered in bold artwork. The illustrations – one of Mother Nature and another of a woman carrying a large water pitcher on her back – represent the responsibility of the mothers who walked far to collect water for their families.
“We see the difference in the environment. Before, when the building was deteriorated, people had begun to use drugs in the vicinity,” remarks Chocontá. “Now that the building is permanently in use, this situation has dispersed.” During the day, painting, beauty and entrepreneurship workshops are given. At night, 50 youngsters practice their hip-hop moves.
The tour concludes with a small market where visitors are invited to purchase items made by twenty production units managed by female breadwinners. These include arts and crafts made from recycled materials.
“Today we are more united than ever,” says Chocontá. “We are a community of good, cheerful, hard-working and honest people who seek to tell our own story of strength through the macro mural. We want to project a different vision from the eastern hills of the city.”
If interested in visiting the macro mural, tours can be arranged by calling (311) 542 5950 or visiting their Facebook page “Buenavista Sol Lunar.” The two-hour visit costs between $15,000 and $25,000 pesos, depending if transport is required.