Some might think of Graffiti as an eyesore or hail it as one of the greatest expression of art, one thing that can be said about Graffiti is that it’s definitely an universal language that’s often used to help bridge people together. This past December I had the pleasure of traveling to Cartagena, Columbia to cover Arte Urbano’s Ciudad Mural in the Getsemani neighborhood in Cartagena.
The initiative was the first International Festival of Urban Art, where for a week over 40 graffiti artists erected 35 murals in the historic city of Getsemani, located in the outskirts of Cartagena. Getsemani is an urban working class area that isn’t as refined as the old Walled City of Cartagena, but still has a charming flair. And just like most urban cities they too have their fair share of troubles, such as drugs and prostitution.
Erecting this project wasn’t an easy feat for organizers Alejandro Cardenas and Camilo Fidel Lopez of Vertigo Graffiti. Even down to the wire they were still dealing with obtaining permits, incorrect supply orders, and trying to keep the artists on track. It was a daunting task, but they wouldn’t have had it any other way. One of the challenges for the artists was that each mural had to respect and represent Cartagena/Getsemani’s historic heritage.
These murals represent new issues that are plaguing Getsemani, such as racial segregation, gentrification and the increasing tourism. Some of the muralists chose to celebrate leaders, including Peter Romero, Salsa singer Joe Arroyo. While others created pieces that demonstrated historical facts, celebrated Palanqueras, the fruit vendors seen in the streets of Cartagena and nature.
The festival also served as a way to bring the community together; there were workshops for the younger children (ages 7-12), the elders in the neighborhood assisted the muralist with water when the sun was baking and with light at night –a few of the murals are on unlit side streets. The main celebration happened at the end of the festival with a “graduation” ceremony for the younger children and a mural walk with the artists to show all 35 murals. The procession started with roughly fifteen people and rapidly grew to over 50+ people admiring the art, snapping photos and engaging the artists.
This was a very refreshing way to help revitalize the spirit of a neighborhood by incorporating art and humanity. They are also creating an online map of where you can locate the murals, so if you are traveling to Cartagena just remember to take a gander out of the Walled City take a short walk to Getsemani, its worth the trip to view these pieces of art.