Barranco is already well-known as the Bohemian district of Lima, and here you will find the homes of Lima’s artists, poets and dreamers. Unsurprisingly, in such a neighborhood you will also find multiple examples of street art that reflect the creative nature of the residents, and it makes a wonderful place to explore more urban art. As Barranco is almost on the other side of the city from Plaza Matriz (which I wrote about in a previous blog), it reflects the widespread appreciation for urban murals that the people of Lima have across the whole capital.
Some of these murals were spontaneously painted. In fact, yesterday we caught graffiti artist Terko in the act, painting a wizard onto the wall of a Barranco horse. Usually he’s working on commissions he said, but this mural he was doing just for fun.
However, others were painted as competition entries for the 2015 Barranco municipality street art competition, “Las paredes hablan” (The walls speak). This competition drew in artists from across the world and so the Barranco murals are not just a representation of Peruvian art but of diverse influences. It shows how dedicated the Barranco community is to encouraging and displaying art work that they arranged for this competition to take place. The recent date also shows how new some of these murals are, and now is a good time to see them before the inevitable passage of time ages them. Street art by its very nature is not fixed or permanent, as you can see by this example of a mural painted onto the side of a dance academy in the neighborhood. The bright and energetic mural that now covers the facade was commissioned by the school, but if you look carefully you can spot the previous artwork peeking out from under the current piece. Now covered up, like so many other urban street art murals across Lima, it will never be viewed again. This is one aspect of what makes street art so exciting! Catch it while you can, as the murals you can spot in Barranco 2016 may not be the same in 5 years time.
We’re not just talking about murals in Barranco either. Some of the work is truly interactive, for example the work of artist NAF, who places mirrors around the neighborhood with various messages attached (e.g. Ïntrospection, look for 10 minutes”), encouraging passers-by to not just glance, but experience the art. Or how about the train carriage painted by los Salvajes, with the characteristic cute animal face and bright colours? This piece has its home in a park, and so can be enjoyed by everyone- those who come to appreciate it as urban artwork, and families and children who appreciate it as a fun and bright feature to an outing.
Each mural has its own story behind it, however I have my own absolute favorite piece, painted by artist NN (Decertor)(the first picture). It is a realistic mural of a Peruvian woman reaching out to a ripped-apart photograph of her child. The woman herself shatters into pieces, representing her brokenness after having her child ‘disappeared’ (kidnapped, tortured and/or killed) during the 1980’s political regime. This mural is painted in earthy tones that are representative of the ‘real’, daily Peru. I find this mural both beautiful at its heart and whilst the neon artwork is visually appealing, this artist’s attempt to show a half forgotten reality for many people here is commendable. Sadly, there are already a few blue handprints smacked across the woman´s face, again showing the transitive nature of street art- it only takes a small intervention to ruin a piece.
Another artists whose work is exceptional for its concepts is that of Jade Rivera. Below you can see his painting of a man and bird near the whispering bridge in Barranco. The words read “Mi primer amor tenía doce años y las uñas negras” (my first love was 12 years old and had black/dirty nails). I’ve heard various stories about this, but the most popular one is that this mural was a homage to the artist’s first love, who was a young girl living on the street (hence the dirty nails). However, this isn’t certain. Another feature of Rivera’s work is the uses of ‘masks’, for example the face in this mural acts as a sort of mask to the interior vision, or if we take another mural of his the mask acts as a bridge between man and bird, facilitating understanding perhaps.
These murals are spread across the neighborhood of Barranco, so whether you’re just going there for a quick trip or to planning to stay, you are sure to see some great art. If you want to do a full tour, this is offered by the lovely Brenda who is more than capable to guide you through the streets of Barranco. It’s recommended that you take this option if you want more than just a quick glance during your walks, or if you want to know the real stories and inspirations behind the pieces with a knowledgeable and experienced guide.
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Whatsapp: (+51) 962-373-975
Beckie is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.