Obama’s Colombia

I can remember how excited I felt when the news was confirmed that November night. After months of awkwardly defending my nation and its unpopular president to my Argentine friends – I was living in Mendoza at the time – my home country had finally done something I could brag about.

The United States, after eight years of controversial wars and blustery foreign policy had elected not just a young, inspiring new leader, but a black man at that. Millions of people around the world were ecstatic, myself included.

Barack Obama in Cartagena, Colombia.

President Obama speaks with Felipe Calderon at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in 2012. Photo by Gobierno Federal.

“The symbolic significance of his run and his biography really elevated everybody’s expectations,” said Dr. Kimberly Stanton of the Project Counseling Service, which assists non-government organizations throughout Latin America. “People expected him to revolutionize all of politics at once.”

Four years of sometimes brutal reality later, Barack Obama struggles to regain electoral momentum after a first term marked by persistent foreign conflicts and a crushing economic crisis at home.

Nonetheless, the president’s impact here in Colombia, and in Latin America in general, has received generally positive reviews. Over the past four years, the U.S. revitalized relations with Cuba and Venezuela, reformed immigration laws to grant temporary legal residency to many children of illegal immigrants, and passed a free trade agreement with Colombia that promises to bring the ally nations closer together economically than ever before.

Still, some argue the Obama administration has failed to grant the region the attention it deserves, and foreign aid toward Colombia has declined significantly since the previous administration.

“There is a weaker bureaucratic support for the relationship with Latin America. It’s not a priority for the U.S. right now, which is not necessarily a bad thing per se,” explained Dr. Sandra Borda, the director of the American Studies program at the Universidad de Los Andes.

But the next few months are for looking forward rather than backwards, and determining what the president has on the agenda for relations between the United States and Colombia during the next term, should he win reelection.

“If he’s reelected, it would be great to imagine that he would rethink the region, but I feel like Latin America is seen as relatively quiet and not troubling whereas the rest of the world is more complex,” said Stanton.

Indeed, many agree that Obama’s relationship with Latin American leaders, notably Chavez and the Castros has been warmer than it would probably be with a Republican like Romney.

Hilary Clinton meets with Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe

Secretary of State Clinton met with then president Álvaro Uribe in 2010 to discuss continued U.S. support for its controversial Plan Colombia. Photo by El Tiempo.

President Obama’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas this year in Cartagena in particular showed a “willingness to go to foreign meetings where his policies were criticized,” according to Stanton. That tolerance of foreign criticism has been repeatedly attacked by the Romney campaign as weak and apologetic.

Additionally, Obama’s recent affirmation of renewed negotiations between the Santos administration and guerrilla groups suggests that US support could be valuable to a peaceful future in Colombia.

“By intuition you can say that a Democratic government would be more welcoming of a peace process in Colombia. I’m not sure how Republicans would view peace talks with the FARC, for example, who are also drug traffickers,” noted Borda.

Stanton agreed, adding that Democrats tend to be more focused on social concerns and human rights in the region than their opponents, a position affirmed by the most recently available party platforms.

“We believe that in the 21st century, the U.S. must treat Latin America and the Caribbean as full partners,” states the 2008 Democratic platform. “An alliance of the Americas will only succeed if it is founded on the bedrock of mutual respect and works to advance democracy, opportunity and security from the bottom up.”

The 2012 Republican platform, on the other hand, warns against “Marxist subversion and drug lords” in the Americas, specifically referring to Venezuela and Cuba as threats to U.S. national security. Both parties’ platforms mention Colombia specifically only in the context of the ongoing fight against drug producers and traffickers.

Of much greater interest to Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney are the estimated 55 million Latinos living in the U.S., of whom more than 21 million are registered voters. Both parties have expended considerable resources to win the Hispanic community this election.

Democrats maintain a massive lead in registered Latino voters, claiming 51% of the population compared to the 18% who vote Republican, according to Resurgent Republic, a polling organization. Republicans hope to gain ground with the remaining 31%, who vote Independent.

“Legal immigrants understand that what the Democrats have proposed for them is more attractive than the Republicans, who want to criminalize and militarize the immigration process in a lot of ways,” mentioned Borda.

Winning over Independent voters could shift that balance of power decisively, however, and Republicans want to exploit the social conservatism of many Latino voters, the majority of whom are Catholic.

“Many Latino voters are pro-life and somewhat conservative on social issues,” said Stanton, who also pointed out that Republicans have moved away from George W. Bush’s more liberal immigration stance. “The fact that they still vote Democratic shows a focus on the Democratic policy toward immigration.”

A Spanish-language version of an Obama campaign poster

“Our Voice.” A Spanish-language version of Obama’s campaign posters. Image by Nuestravoz.

While the upcoming election could dramatically affect Colombians living in the United States, the general consensus seems to be that the Andean nation and its neighbors will remain a relatively low priority in the face of larger issues like the global economic crisis and ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

“I don’t see a big vision,” confirmed Stanton, offering her prediction for a second Obama presidency. “I see good bilateral relations, but not a grand vision.”


Next month, The City Paper will look at the possible impacts of a Mitt Romney presidency. For information about how to vote from Colombia, please visit www.fvap.gov.

This article is the property of Ed Buckley and The City Paper Bogotá. Photos are used under Creative Commons license. 


Totó la Momposina: The Voice of Tradition

There was never even the slightest doubt in her mind. From the moment of her birth, Sonia Bazanta Vides, much better known by her preferred moniker Totó la Momposina, was destined to be a musician.

Of course, her assuredness seems only natural considering that Totó, born in 1948 in Talaigua Nuevo, a town on the Magdalena River in the Caribbean department of Bolívar, became part of the fourth generation of a deeply musical family.

“It’s like I’m in the middle of a continuation,” says Totó, who sees her prolific five-decade career as a highly personal expression not only of respect for her family, but also for the culture of her region. “We have to continue with a musical dynasty, and that’s why I do this; not for fame.”

Her words ring true as she sips on a warm glass of orange juice at a hotel café in Bogotá, soft-spoken to save her voice and with fiery eyes that contrast with her gentle presence, each anecdote underscored by a genuine passion for Colombia and the Caribbean.

Though her music resonates with the pulsing drumbeats, expressive accordions and exotic gaitas of the nation’s northern coast, Totó spent little time living in the region. As a young child, she moved around, settling briefly with her family in Villavicencio before they were displaced to Bogotá after her father received threats for his political leanings.

Ironically, her geographical removal from the Caribbean played a key role in solidifying her musical connection with that culture, as the family house in Bogotá became something of a hotel for a virtual “who’s who” of Colombian folk music, most notably a host of legendary “Costeño” performers.

“The house in Bogotá was a refuge for the Costeños. Many musicians passed through to dance and play music,” she remembers. “My mother brought musicians from our hometown– drummers, accordion and gaita players.”

While receiving a traditional education that focused on skills like growing crops, raising animals and sewing in addition to reading, writing and etiquette, Totó also began her musical education performing with her family as part of a group called Danzas del Caribe (Dances of the Caribbean).

“My first musical studies were in the home. In a family like mine, one simply has musical notes inscribed in the mind and body,” she said.

Eventually, the family began appearing on television, helping the young performer reach an ever-broader audience or “spreading spectacles to the barrios,” as Totó put it. Nonetheless, she maintained a desire to formalize her musical education.

Totó enrolled at the Sorbonne to study music in 1982, a decision that would radically influence her career, honing and expanding her talents outside of the comfort of her home country. Though Parisian culture could hardly be further removed from that of Bogotá, much less the Colombian Caribbean, Totó remembers the French as particularly open to the discovery of new art and music and she found herself exceedingly well received.

Indeed, her first album was recorded in Paris, but her true love remained sharing the music of her roots with new audiences wherever and whenever the opportunity arose. “I sang in the streets, in restaurants, in the metro in Paris– that was always the joy for me– spreading the culture of Colombia,” she recalls.

Officially a published recording artist, her musical growth continued throughout Europe. While Totó refers to Paris as her education, she considers Germany and England to have provided her discipline, and “La Colombí,” as she was referred to in France, gave a myriad of tours around the continent, including more than a hundred in the USSR.

Her career already on an unquestionably upward trajectory, Totó’s most important breakthrough came when Peter Gabriel overheard her singing at a world music concert in France. At his request, she later recorded an album in his home studio, a move that helped propel her to true stardom around the world and particularly in her beloved Colombia.

“I’ve always loved recording– that’s how you really know whether or not you can sing. But I really felt like I was an artist when I recorded with Peter Gabriel,” notes Totó, who described Gabriel as surprisingly shy but overwhelmingly welcoming.

With the backing of such a prominent musician, Totó’s star began rising faster than ever, but throughout it all she remained strikingly humble, always quick to turn the discussion away from herself and back to the music and the culture of her region.

“When you have love for a culture, a country, you’re not thinking about your own impact, but rather the happiness you can bring to people,” she mentions when asked about the impact of fame on her life. “The music is the famous one.”

True to her words, the cantadora remains content playing the role of musical ambassador rather than diva despite her status as a musical legend in her home country. In fact, her only apparent indulgence of showiness comes via her vibrantly colored clothes and headdresses, a reflection of her Costeña heritage and effervescent personality and a sharp contrast to Bogotá’s sea of grays, blacks and browns.

Defying her years, Totó shows no signs of slowing down, having recently given various concerts around Colombia in addition to beginning work on a new studio album and finalizing plans for a German tour this summer. She also boasts some recent high-profile collaborations, notably with Puerto Rican reggaeton artist Calle 13, whose hit song Latinoamerica, for which Totó provided additional vocals, won two Latin Grammys.

“At this moment I’m between the past and the present,” she said. “Ready to place my voice at the service of an entire continent and explain that identity music doesn’t have national boundaries. It’s open space, like a spiritual truth.”

In an impressive continuation of tradition, Totó’s children and grandchildren carry on the family’s musical legacy. All of her nine grandchildren are performers, and she remains optimistic for the future of traditional music in Colombia, a movement she sees as growing thanks to popular interest, despite the setbacks of a mainstream culture too often focused on quick money and short-term projects.

Of course, Totó’s life could hardly be further removed from the concept of instant gratification. Her lifelong dedication to her music and her unwavering assurance of purpose seems refreshingly, uniquely clear, an echo of a simpler era. After all, envy and greed come only when people do something that isn’t right for them, she says.

And music is undoubtedly “right” for Totó la Momposina. By any standard, Totó can consider herself more than a success– a singing, dancing monument to one of Colombia’s most vivid and exuberant cultures and an assurance that the primal, percussive rhythms of the Caribbean will reverberate across a nation for generations to come.

Colombian folk singer Totó la Momposina in concert

Totó gives a concert performance in her typical outfit and characteristically animated expressions.

This text is the property of The City Paper Bogotá and cannot be reproduced or translated without permission (but feel free to share the link!). The photos and videos are used under creative commons. 

Bogotá June 2012: Girl-fights, Geeks, Gays and Guitars

Summer is finally here in Bogotá, and while the constant climate of “la nevera” might not lend itself to bikinis, suntans or flip-flops, June brings wave after wave of quirky, alternative festivals and must-see events to heat up the city.

Kicking off the month with a bang– or perhaps a body-slam– is Colombia’s first national roller derby tournament, running from June 9-11 at the El Salitre Recreation Center Coliseum. Don’t be fooled by the all-female teams, roller derby earns its reputation as one of the more violent sports on eight wheels, a tongue-in-cheek mixture of rugby and speed skating worth checking out as much for the athleticism of participants as for their sense of humor.

Roller derby team the Bogota Bone Breakers

The Bogotá Bone Breakers, one of a handful of teams participating in Colombia’s first national roller derby competition this June… (photo from Bogotá Bone Breakers)

No matter how impeccable your “spring cleaning,” remember that closets are for clothes and bust out your rainbow flags as June marks LGBT pride month. Bogotá’s annual gay pride march, one of the city’s largest parades, fills the corridor of Carrera Septima to the brim with tens of thousands of gay and straight revelers from around the world. Traditionally held on the closest Sunday to June 28, the anniversary of the Stonewall riots that catalyzed the modern gay rights movement, this year’s parade falls on July 1.

For this writer’s money, nobody throws a party quite like a city full of gays, so the nightlife during the last weekend of June is not to be missed, regardless of sexual orientation. The official after party takes place at The End, a nightclub in the top floor of the Hotel Tequendama, but local favorites Romeo and Theatron will surely be hotspots as well.

Participants in Bogota's gay pride march 2011

Participants lift a giant rainbow flag in the 2011 gay pride march in Bogotá…

If, however, you prefer to party via local area network– or happen to know what a local area network is– then be sure to join up with thousands of fellow technology geeks at Campus Party, a weeklong, 24-hour-a-day festival-convention celebrating the year in digital technology held at Corferias starting on June 25. Buy tickets in advance, as participation in most events is limited, though the main convention hall will be open to the public all week.

Tents at Bogota's campus party

Campus party is a giant slumber party for adult nerds… thousands of them.

Adding to the city’s already busy schedule, June’s end brings another edition of one of Latin America’s largest outdoor music festivals, Rock al Parque. Thousands of Bogotanos decked out with tattoos, hair gel and hipster glasses descend on the Parque Simon Bolívar for the four-day concert festival, which hosts an international line-up of bands and runs from June 30 to July 3. Notable guests this year include Argentine rocker Charly Garcia and US punk band NOFX.

Rock al Parque in Bogotá

The crowd goes wild at Rock al Parque, which features three days of performances on multiple stages in the Parque Simon Bolívar… (photo from Bogota Rocks)

Often left out of more “adult” offerings like Rock al Parque, younger Bogotanos can finally enjoy a festival all their own, with Young Fest, an event promising concerts, fashion shows, video game competitions and extreme sports, among other activities, all specifically designed for 11 to 17-year-olds. Cheeky San Andresano artist Jiggy Drama, an interesting choice given that his masterpiece of double entendres, “La Fuga,” was banned from a handful of radio stations, kicks off the festivities on June 16 in the El Salitre Recreation Center. 

Seemingly eternal construction in downtown Bogotá carries the silver lining of opening up a chunk of Carrera Septima between Calles 19 and 26 exclusively to pedestrian and bike traffic as part of a “cultural corridor” that features free concerts, performances and art exhibitions on an almost daily basis. The newly implemented promenade deserves a visit if only to confirm that terms like “leisurely” and “pedestrian-friendly” can accurately be used to describe any part of Bogotá’s city center.

Whether your idea of fun involves girls fighting, marching drag queens, caffeinated computer nerds, blue mohawks or just enjoying a walk downtown without being hit by a bus, June promises something for everyone in edgy, diverse Bogotá.


This article is the property of The City Paper Bogotá and may not be reproduced or translated without permission. 

Gotthard Schuh and the Sensuality of Photojournalism

Few things describe artists more intimately than the subjects they choose to depict, and a new exhibition of more than 25 years of photojournalism by relatively unknown but influential Swiss photographer Gotthard Schuh offers both a fascinatingly diverse historical document and a portrait of the artist himself.

A Belgian coal miner by Gotthard Schuh

A Belgian coal miner grins at the camera in part of a series of photographs documenting the harsh lives of workers in the region.

On display through July 16 in the Museo del Arte del Banco de la República in downtown Bogotá, this particular collection of 93 of Schuh’s most dramatic and impacting photos, combined with 20 pieces by followers and students, represents the rediscovery of an important and unquestionably talented photojournalist.

Touching on key moments from a stylistically varied, globetrotting career, the exhibit chronicles everything from Schuh’s early scenes of Paris nightlife to social realist images of coal miners in Belgium, sensuous and philosophical depictions of Southeast Asian culture and portraits of daily life from around Europe.

Asian dancer by Gotthard Schuh

A dancer practices as photographed during Schuh’s journey through Southeast Asia.

Originally trained as a painter, Schuh began taking photographs while working in Paris in the late 1920s, and his keen eye for capturing entire stories in a simple glance or subtle motion drew almost immediate acclaim. His unique style, mixing documentary photography with subjective storytelling, eventually became known as “poetic realism” and influenced generations of photojournalists.

Though also a talented landscape photographer, Schuh’s most compelling work revolves around humanity, and his portraits are particularly striking. Whether contrasting the blackened skin of coal miners with their dazzlingly vibrant eyes or pondering the enigmatic smile of a Nazi girl in pre-war Berlin, his human images effortlessly evoke incredible depth of emotion.

A lyrical encounter by Gotthard Schuh

Lyrical and subjective, many of Schuh’s photos suggest open-ended, mysteriously romantic stories.

Indeed, Schuh considered emotional involvement with his subjects of the utmost importance, a clear departure from traditional notions of journalistic objectivity. According to Schuh, “Anyone who is incapable of empathizing with events and situations to the extent that they feel love for them, at least for a moment, will not possess the power to reproduce them.”

That ability to capture a thousand stories, some factual and others completely subjective, with a single photo reached its peak during a yearlong journey through Java, Singapore, Sumatra and Bali. The journey left a profound personal impact on Schuh and marked the final stage in his transition from a more traditional journalistic style to a sensual, even erotic blend of impressionism and realism.

A sensuous image by Gotthard Schuh

His time spent in Asia heightened Schuh’s sensuous vision, particularly of women.

Shortly after returning to Europe, then embroiled in the Second World War, Schuh largely retired from journalism to focus on publishing his work and educating the next generation through his association with the Kollegium Schweizerischer Photographen, a loosely organized group of prominent Swiss photographers.

His involvement with the Kollegium arguably represented Schuh’s greatest impact on modern photojournalism. While Schuh himself remained largely unknown outside of Europe for decades, followers like Robert Frank, whose chronicling of the United States in the turbulent and wildly prosperous post-war era remains a powerfully significant work to this day, went on to become acclaimed photographers.

nuns view The Last Supper by Gotthard Schuh

Schuh was best known for telling entire stories through the simplest of images.

That his career played such an important role in the aesthetic development of some of the century’s greatest photojournalists makes it easy to forget just how revolutionary Schuh’s vision really was, but the photos featured in this engrossing exhibition offer a clear reminder of the lyrical, narrative beauty of his work.

Gotthard Schuh deserves rediscovery, and for students of photojournalism, history buffs or simply fans of aesthetically beautiful photography, a trip to the Museo del Arte del Banco de la República is an all but mandatory experience this month.


The exhibition is on display on the third floor of the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, Calle 11 No. 4-21. Admission is free.

This article is the property of The City Paper Bogotá and cannot be reproduced or translated without permission.

Nadín Ospina’s Monument to Childhood, Dreams and a Nation’s Lost Innocence

Nadín Ospina dreams about toys.

And visitors to the Bogotá artist’s ethereal new exhibition, Oniria, on display in the gallery of the Universidad Jorge Lozano Tadeo, might feel the same way, as a stroll through the otherworldly collection of painted bronze figures indeed evokes a dreamlike sensation.

Each boldly colored statuette populating the exhibit draws inspiration from classic toy figurines. The nostalgic characters bask under dramatic lighting, interspersed with replicas of world landmarks meant to represent souvenirs from vacations– the “toys” of adults. Cool and relaxing, the atmosphere suggests a museum display, a melancholy shrine to something from another era or another state of consciousness.

North American Indian statuettes from Nadin Ospina's Oniria Exhibition

Models from the Oniria exhibition also play on the irony of North American Indian figurines being so common in Colombia, when tribes indigenous to the nation are often poorly understood.

“I’ve been interested in dreams as part of my creative process for a while,” explains Nadín of the inspiration for Oniria, a title referencing the Greek word for dreaming. “There is a technique of yoga that helps you to dream more consciously, even artistically, and things like these– toy-like objects– always show up in my dreams.”

Nadín Ospina gained renown as an artist with visually jarring sculptures combining universally recognizable pop icons like Mickey Mouse and Bart Simspon with pre-Columbian artwork in a critique of the cultural homogenization that continues to dramatically reshape Colombian life. His newest work takes a decidedly more personal tone, focusing on dreams and memories, while not totally dispensing with the themes that define his career and his own past.

Born and raised in the neighborhood now known as Galerias, one of Bogotá’s largest and oldest commercial centers, Ospina grew up on the frontlines of a cultural invasion. As North American and European influences gradually popped up around his home, Ospina became fascinated with the appliances, restaurants, department stores and, perhaps most importantly, toys that arrived from abroad.

Tastes began to change, along with home décor, and Ospina remembers the mass-produced ceramics and miniature figurines that filled houses like his grandmother’s, an influence clearly felt in the Oniria exhibition.

Despite the turbulent change surrounding him, Nadín remembers his childhood as happy and carefree, a sensation he recreates in his latest work, immersing viewers in a playful and innocent space.

Lego Art from Nadin Ospina

Another recent project used Legos to illustrate a "kid-friendly" version of the Colombian civil conflict...

The innocence of youth wore of quickly as Ospina began college under pressure to pursue what his parents deemed a respectable career. Initially a medical student, Nadín realized he was on the wrong path while caring for an injured uncle. The blood and stress of the situation proved more than he could comfortably handle.

Despite a lifelong fascination with art, clarity finally arrived in a dream. “I kept hearing the word ‘arte’ over and over one night, and I thought ‘why not?’” says Ospina, adding another layer of meaning to the dream-inspired exhibition.

Unfortunately, his parents were not so easily convinced, and his father furiously argued that studying art was tantamount to throwing his life away. Even his new professors tried to discourage him from continuing his studies, suggesting that his future in the art world was dim at best.

“The head of the art program told me I should study something else so I wouldn’t waste any more of my parents’ money,” Ospina remembers. “This was the director of the program. They should have encouraged me.”

Encouragement came soon enough, however, and Nadín’s critics were silenced when a curator from the Medellin Museum of Modern Art selected one of his pieces for an exhibition, where it received an honorable mention.

A statue from artist Nadin Ospina combines pop culture with indigenous art

A statue of Bart Simpson in the Pre-Columbian style...

With a foot in the door, Ospina began working harder than ever, and he cites the period between 1982 and 1985 as his most productive, though the solitude of working outside the university “bubble” took him somewhat by surprise.

Nadín credits his methodical, almost obsessive nature as an artist to the rigorous demands of his Jesuit schooling. Though less marked now than in the beginning of his career, his steadfastness occasionally earns him criticism for refusing to let go of ideas and inspirations.

On the contrary, Ospina wonders if other Colombian artists might in fact be stuck, suggesting that, “they seem kidnapped by the situation of the country.”

Indeed, Oniria avoids an explicit political message, though Nadín acknowledges that refusal to address Colombia’s socio-political climate becomes a statement in and of itself. Nonetheless, his latest work marks a break with the more overtly critical pieces of his past, representing a more mature artist at peace with the inevitability of multiculturalism.

That peace seems reflected in his personality as well, as Nadín appears calm and even effervescent putting the final touches on his exhibition barely 24 hours before opening night. He casually jokes with janitors and offers gentle suggestions to college students setting up a video display.

Admitting he was perhaps not always so relaxed, Nadín attributes much of his grounded attitude to his wife’s recent and ongoing battle with cancer, a painful experience that caused him to rethink his priorities.

“I used to be even more obsessive, but I’m a little more relaxed now. It’s liberating to realize what’s important,” he notes with genuine optimism.

Of course, some things still bother Ospina, most notably the elusiveness of a defining cultural identity in Colombia. The nation boasts an astonishing diversity among its various regions from the Amazon to the Andes, and despite thousands of years of rich cultural tradition, many Colombians look up to foreigners.

“The high classes want to be French, the middle class from the United States and the lower class Mexican,” notes Ospina jokingly, “but nobody wants to be Colombian.”

A similar frustration inspired his original focus as an artist, creating hybrids of universal characters and icons of an ancestral Colombia untouched by outside influences.

The quest to strengthen his nation’s cultural identity became tangible when efforts to accurately recreate the masterpieces of pre-Columbian civilization took Ospina to San Agustín, a small town known for producing accurate replicas of indigenous art. The town’s residents sold the pieces as souvenirs for tourists and occasionally as originals to unsuspecting buyers, but the civil conflict almost completely destroyed their business.

“When I arrived at San Agustín, the town was in terrible shape. There was no tourism due to problems with the guerrillas, but they started working again for me and we started bringing back their considerable talents,” says Ospina.

A Statue of Mickey Mouse by Nadin Ospina

A stone statue of Mickey Mouse reflects the core message of Nadin Ospina's early career...

Like the stone artworks produced in San Agustín, many of the toys referenced in Oniria were produced as copies in Colombia. Each figurine was replicated over and over again from molds based on versions of the toys brought from Europe and North America, losing detail and quality but gaining a unique character.

His newest exhibition then quietly returns to the same metaphors that define his career, reflecting the ever-changing culture of Colombia, degraded in some regards and strengthened in others.

“There is some loss of our identity for sure, but our culture is strong and I think it’s a two way street. The third world is also infiltrating the first,” reminds Ospina. “The reality is that the future is a fusion of cultures and I think that, overall, that’s good.”

Not quite surrender but hardly a call to revolution, it’s a fitting insight for an artist in a place of peace and profound personal awareness, accepting of realities while remaining keenly observant and gently critical.

Oniria strikes a similarly delicate balance between ideas and aesthetics, grounded with a mature intentionality that compliments the ephemeral subject. Like the artist himself, the exhibition seems at once universal and undeniably Colombian, an ode to the past of a nation changed forever by modernization, and a guarantee that Nadín Ospina will help define the art of its future.


The text of this article is the property of The City Paper Bogotá and Edward Buckley and cannot be reproduced without permission. 

A Thousand Faces, One Festival

Colombia’s capital city, always famous for bustling streets and colorful residents, takes on a new persona this month as the lights go down and the curtains come up on one of the planet’s largest theater festivals.

This March, Bogotá plays host to more than a hundred different performing arts groups as part of the Ibero-American Theater Festival, Colombia’s largest cultural event and easily the most dynamic and important theater festival in the Americas.

Australia's Tom Tom Crew will perform at the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá, Colombia

Australia's Tom Tom Crew brings an innovative circus act to the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá.

The biennial event brings in more than 2,000 performers from around the world for almost 1,000 different functions, making this year’s theme, “The Festival of a Thousand Faces,” particularly appropriate.

Though the roster includes acts from an impressive 31 countries, the spotlight shines most brightly on Romania, this year’s special guest nation. Romanian groups will present three monumental works ranging from the Ancient Greek “Electra” to Samuel Beckett’s modern “Waiting for Godot.”

A Romanian production of "Waiting for Godot" at the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá, Colombia

Romania's production of "Waiting For Godot" stands as one of the special guest nation's three groundbreaking works.

Three Hollywood veterans also join the festival with works encompassing a version of George Orwell’s “1984” directed by actor Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Mystic River”), “Constant Rain” starring Argentina’s Rodrigo de la Serna (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), and “Fires” directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna (“Y Tu Mamá También”, “Milk”).

With four unique interpretations of his timeless and influential plays, including a South Korean version of “Hamlet,” a Georgian performance of “Macbeth” and a Colombian interpretation of “The Tempest,” Shakespeare handily takes the honor of the festival’s most represented playwright.

A Korean production of Hamlet at the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá, Colombia

A South Korean production of Hamlet will be one of a handful of creative takes on Shakespeare plays.

For those looking for something more contemporary, Kosovo’s “Rock and Roll,” written by Oscar winner Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”) intertwines vivacious music and gritty political narrative chronicling the birth of the young nation. In addition, Australia’s “Cantina,” Spain’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the “Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo” performed entirely by men in drag, and Czech Republic’s “What Happened When Nora Left Her Husband,” written by Nobel prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek all promise a vibrant, contemporary experience.

Pushing the boundaries of performance art into the realm of interactivity, Corferias, Bogotá’s massive convention center, becomes “City Theater,” a groundbreaking theater space in which spectators become participants. The center’s different halls will transform into a museum, a rodeo, a forest and a city plaza all filled with dancers, bands, magicians, puppet shows and street artists. Spectators can take in traditional shows from afar or immerse themselves in each environment, enjoying a truly innovative theater experience.

Corferias will also host the festival’s International Concert, headlined by Afro-Uruguayan group El Negro Rada and Colombia’s own Electro-Cumbia pioneers Frente Cumbiero. The Cabaret Tent, open every night of the festival, promises equally enticing performances from 46 different groups, including Bogotá’s up-and-coming Bomba Estereo.

Les Ballets Trockadero will perform at the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá, Colombia

Les Ballets Trockadero brings a lighter touch to traditional ballet... by trading female dancers for men in drag.

A must-see event for visitors and residents alike, the Ibero-American Theater Festival offers an array of functions so incredibly diverse that anyone and everyone should be able to find something to enjoy as dramatic sights and sounds fill the city and Bogotá takes the stage.

Spain's "Sing Sing Sing" at the 2012 Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá, Colombia

Spanish performers bring back the Swing Era in the musical "Sing Sing Sing"

Prices for individual performances range from $30,000 to $200,000 pesos (approx. $15-100 US) depending on the show and seating, and entry to the City Theater costs $8.000 for adults and $4.000 for children with additional charges for some acts. Most performances are in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles.



This article is the property of Edward Buckley and The City Paper Bogotá and may not be reused without permission. Photos were provided by Festival Ibero-Americano de Teatro de Bogotá 2012.