“The post-conflict will become a historic and momentous time in the history of Colombia … Bogotá will play a leading role, as its social, economic and cultural model is decisive for building sustainable peace.” Hernando Parra, Director R101 Theatre, Bogotá
City data: Key facts
Geographical area: 345 sq. km
Total population: 7,674,366
Total national country population living in the city: 16.30 %
Working age population: 4,676,920
Number of households: 2,385,391
Foreign born population: 0.26 %
Education level - with degree level or higher: 20.54 %
Median gross weekly earnings (ppp): 170
GDP (ppp) (million): US$ 82,175
Bogotá has become an inspirational laboratory for peace and construction of democracy in post-conflict Colombia. For cultural practitioners in the city, contributing to the reconstruction of their country is both a duty and an opportunity. Renewal also brings with it a fresh focus on education and the development of the next generation.
Also evident is a deep commitment to remaking the city’s public realm as a positive asset, creating inviting spaces where people can feel safe. Reinventing the city’s fabric is also tied into concerns about climate change, and other environmental challenges around land use, water the depletion of natural resources. But along with the physical strain on the city, there are challenges in demonstrating that Bogotá is a city of peace, where legal, economic and social sustainability can be guaranteed during the first phase of the post-conflict period.
The arts and culture will play a pivotal role in that process, but only if they are inclusive and extend beyond either entertainment or place-branding. Art that is “something that promotes a sense of creative and critical thinking in all people” that “gets off the wall and starts being much closer to the people” (Nathalia Mesa) can be a powerful tool.
In a city like Bogotá, culture can create opportunities for training and participation that promote cultural values, as well as civic culture, and strengthens both the identity of the city and the responsibility of its citizens. Culture can also promote respect for the environment and the preservation of natural resources, as well as raise awareness of consumption patterns that are deleterious to a sustainable environment.
As elsewhere, culture in Bogotá is seen in instrumental terms. However, its purpose is not regarded primarily as that of economic, or even social development, but essentially that of human development; a response to the specific political situation in which the city operates.
“Each theater can be a tool to democratize society or tool for exclusion.” (Miguel Hincapié, General Subdirector, District Institute for Cultural Heritage)
It is for this reason that all commentators talk emphatically about the idea of cultural rights, and regard their city’s embrace of this idea both powerful and empowering. The investment of the city in culture has centred less on developing prestigious anchor institutions, and more on developing alternative cultural spaces for theatre and music, as well as public events. There are initiatives for displaying items from collections in public space, not only in galleries or museums. And the city has promoted small publishing houses to bring pieces of unconventional literature to the world’s attention.
But Bogotá’s distinctive approach to cultural development is most evident in its Responsible Graffiti Practice, a new participatory process used to develop a cultural policy around graffiti. The policy recognises this marginalised artistic form and seeks to use it to increase participation in decision-making about public space. It has resulted in improved city streetscapes with vibrant artworks and a new cadre of artists, renewing the cultural identity of the city in close collaboration with its citizens.
Perspectives on the city taken from World Cities Culture Report 2015
Interviewees: Hernando Parra, Director R101 Theatre; Miguel Hincapié, General Subdirector, District Institute for Cultural Heritage; Natalia Mesa, Director, aeioTU (childhood education foundation)