A graffiti, 100 meters high
Surely, when you are on your way to downtown Bogotá (‘El Centro’), you will be able to see a giant mural with the faces of smiling children. You might recognize who the artists are, Toxicómano and Dj Lu’s strokes have been part of the city’s (and the world’s) urban art for over ten years.
Here, we want to tell you the story about how we managed to have this work of art #AtTheCenterOfItAll (#EnElCentroDeTodo).
It all started when we met Dj Lu in person. His good vibes let us know that we wanted to work together with him, and he immediately noticed that the northern side of our building could have a giant graffiti.
His proposal was to work alongside his friend Toxicómano, with whom he had already worked before and who could give the mural a more complete perspective. We gave them carte blanche to use this wall as a canvas for the message they would like to send to the city.
The artists, following their style of sending social and political messages through their work, decided that what they wanted to do was to showcase the faces of children from different parts of the country, so that all Bogotá could remember the diversity that exists in Colombia, and to make the invisible visible, those we forget in our day to day lives. Additionally, they added divisions between the faces with the typical Colombian textile designs.
With the design ready, the scariest part was about to come: heights. The graffiti artists would be 100 meters above ground, up on a scaffolding that hung from the top of the building. And yes, they recognized they were scared, because when they paint on the streets they normally have to face the police, but this time it was about being away from the floor by a lot. A challenge!
After having completed a course on height safety, they were ready. We were all very excited for them to start working on the mural, we knew the result would be incredible and we couldn’t wait to see it.
In theory, it wouldn’t take much time, two weeks at most. Dj Lu and Toxicómano started out painting the entire wall with a base color, and then started placing stencils on the grid, top to bottom (they used 800 sheets for this).
When they had already made progress on the two top faces, the Colombian government declared the quarantine due to COVID-19 and we all had to stay at home. Although we knew they were going to finish it, those were unpredictable moments. When would the artists be able to return? Would we have to wait much to see their finished work?
The work had to be put on hold for nearly one month. As soon as the Bogotá City Hall gave out the permits to go back to work, the artists climbed back up on the scaffolding to finish it.
During the time they spent working on this graffiti, they faced many more unexpected challenges, apart from a global pandemic. One day, there was a power outage, and they were left hanging in the air for an hour, not being able to move the scaffolding. Other days, the wind that comes down from the eastern mountains of Bogotá made them swing more than they expected. And of course, the Bogotá rain showed up more than once.
But they finished it! And we now have one more gem in the capital’s urban art scene.
In Dj Lu’s words, this work is “a celebration or chant to Colombian diversity”, while Toxicómano thinks that more than a political space, it is a space to inspire hope in the city.
A graffiti is not just about scribbling on a wall, as Toxicómano explains: “painting on the street means a lot. Through my work, I can send society a message of empowerment, where we can all contribute, in one way or another. We hope these faces represent anyone”.