From stigma to artform – graffiti takes the city by storm

By: Angelica Barrios Martinez.

Taki 183 tagging himself in the 70’s. Photo:

Let’s think how many times we’ve passed in front of just about any wall next to any street in Barranquilla, for example on Murillo Avenue and what do we see? Graffiti. And we say like OHH! How Cool! Well that’s what we think as young people, however as an old lady on the bus, looking through the window, thinking about her grandchildren and suddenly she comes across this image which says: “The Revolution is the people’s Gun” – well, of course, she is going to be scandalized and think, “the kids nowadays are all rebels,” but in fact what’s behind this sentence? Are they just rebel kids who don’t like rules and want some freedom? Or are they honestly imploring for cheaper and better education, expressing their demands through a different medium?

Graffiti located in via 40. Photo:

The point is, do you know how the graffiti movement started? Well, it was in 1971 with a Greek guy in New York City named TAKI 183, or at least that was how he signed his art.
Influenced by the hip-hop and urban music scene, TAKI183 was interviewed by the New York Times and got super famous! And then, our 70’s generation began imitating him and looking for better and more striking places to draw their signs and tags.

OK enough with the Time Journey; talking about the present in Barranquilla, the minds of everyone in the city has changed, and graffiti is no longer considered vulgar, dirty or in some cases pollution. What was once a stigma has now become youth creativity referred to as Urban Art, which is another way for them to say – Hey! You’re going to do it anyways – so let’s get behind it. Here we are – this is why we have been silent all this time! And it’s not only that they are now allowed to do it, but it’s promoted. Can you believe that? Yes believe it; in Barranquilla, from the citizen’s participation office and with the support of the Secretary of Public Spaces, they have been running some events that promote grafitti – such as “Murillando” three years ago, where artists covered eight huge spaces along 45th Street from Carrera 4 up to the intersection with via 40. Another recent event was the Killart Festival from just last month – graffiti artists sprayed almost 1000 square meters across six locations.

Graffiti in La Arenosa: Photo:

Catalina Ucrós, the Bureau Chief, explains that the purpose of these events has been to add color to the city and so the city provided the artists with the space and the materials to do what they do best. So, when you come to Barranquilla you won’t see a typical scene of gray or white walls but instead, you’ll be walking along in an artistic and cultural experience full of historic anecdotes and teachings, aka, Graffiti.