“Union” was the word chosen my the inhabitants of Altos De La Florida, a low income neighbourhood in Soacha, near Bogotá. Thank you to the volonteers and the locals who helped me paint this house. And thank you to the French Embassy in Colombia, who invited me here.
I was invited by “Le Mur” Cherbourg to paint in the center of town. Before I started painting I went to a small refugee camp and met some young lads mainly from Afghanistan living in small tents on the outskirts of the town. I asked them to choose a word they would like to share with everyone. They didn’t take a long to give me the word PEACE. Their country has been at war their whole lives and even now these young men are in France, they’re far from being in peace. This wall is from them to us all.
Big thank you to the organisers of “Le Mur Cherbourg” for inviting me!
Every afternoon the ladies gather on the bench, and chat for hours. We asked Asma to chose a word, and she came up with “Eksat” (the Hindi word for “Together”). She thought it would suit the place.
For me, the ladies’ bench is a source of inspiration since women here always wear beautiful dresses and sarees with vibrant colours. They told me I had to dress well if I wanted to have my picture taken on the bench with them. Ladies’ bench rules!
“Itcha” means “wish” in Hindi. The word was chosen by one of our good friends in the slum, Arbaz, a 17-year old college student. He was big dreams of traveling the world one day!
We painted Arshad’s house without telling him. He’s a very friendly guy, and we wanted to paint a little surprise for him. We asked his neighbours and family to choose a word and they went for “Muskan” (which means “Smile” ). He works at a hotel in central Mumbai and he was delighted to see our work when he came home! All smiles in Phule Nagar!
This is Lakhan, one of our good friends from Phule Nagar. He’s deaf and can’t speak at all, not even sign language. He’s never been to school and therefore he can’t read or write either. In fact, apart from a few hand gestures he can’t communicate with anyone. He spends his days selling packets of water around the local train station. His mother boils water to make it drinkable and puts it in plastic packets which she then pops into the fridge. For the past few weeks we’ve been living off this water!
Each morning, Lakhan comes into our house and wakes us up by pulling our feet, a way of saying it’s time to go to work. Every evening, when the sun sets, he comes over to us and gestures that the day is over and we should pack our gear. Then he comes over to our house after dinner and we have a little drawing session. His drawings are those of a brain almost untouched by culture. Unique and spontaneous!
A year ago we were working in Gagalingin, a slum in the north of Manila, Philippines. Here’s a short documentary of our project there:
“Peace” is a word that everyone here agrees with, whether it be in the neighbourhood itself, or in the rest of Bogota. The mural includes 16 different houses and we chose the bridge that crosses the ring road as the point of view to see the whole piece. This bridge links the community with the rest of Bogota and hundreds of people walk across it each day.
Hopefully people from other parts of the city will also want to stand on the bridge to look at the art, and even cross the bridge to visit an isolated yet very warm community.
Thanks to everyone who helped us make this possible and special thanks to the Universidad de la Javeriana and its volunteers.
“We all need love !” – Usum, Erythrean refugee and nightclub owner in the Jungle refugee camp.
“My name is Sali, I’m from Teheran, Iran. I left my country because I had no freedom there. The Islamic regime has a special police force spying on everything we do. I’ll never go back to my country, now that I have left, I’m on the black list.”
“My name is Ali, I come from Kobanê, in Syria’s Kurdistan. I was a student in English literature but I wasn’t able to carry on because of the war. I hope that I will be able to study in the UK. I left Kobanê when the terrostists of Daesh came and invaded us. It was very hard to leave, I don’t know how to explain this but I love my city, it’s my soil, my people. We have had enough of Daech, enough of the war, we want all this to stop. I love my city and I’d like you to write its name on my house.”