Helping build Colombia’s future with hiphop

August 2003 -

At the end of July the Enlace ('Link', 'Junction') Hiphop School in the centre of Bogotá was officially introduced to the press, organisations and the public. Approximately fifty young people, almost all of whom come from problem neighbourhoods in the Colombian capital, presented the best of what these students have produced during the past weeks in workshops in breakdance, DJ-ing, MC-ing, graffiti and rap to a full house. A show that made an impression due to the performer’s considerable enthusiasm and talent.

'People who create hiphop are contributing to culture. And people who contribute to culture are not busy stealing, dealing drugs, or worse. We are helping build the future of Colombia with hiphop,' says Jeyffer Renteria. Himself a hiphop artist, he was one of a group of young people who initiated the recently opened Casa de Cultura, in which Enlace give workshops. The underlying idea is to offer his peers an alternative to the poverty and the social problems with which they grew up via the cultural centre.

Even though the hiphop workshops started without much publicity, the number of registrations grew to three hundred in just a few months. Teachers, including familiar names from artistic circles in Bogotá, also offered their services spontaneously. They want to offer supplemental lessons in theatre, poetry and voice training. This is all the more striking because the workshop instructors work for a token stipend. The lessons are free to the participants, because even though there is no lack of enthusiasm at Enlace, there is certainly a lack of funds.

That is why the founders want to link the activities in the Casa de Cultura to another initiative that has been in existence longer: the hiphop clothing line Ayara. The collections of this micro company are designed, produced, distributed and sold in the company’s own store within the same group of young people and their family members. The objective is to offer other course participants at the Casa de Cultura courses in fashion design and manufacturing in the future so that they can earn income via Ayara. The initiators want to help finance the activities in the centre with the profits from their sales. They are considering exporting clothing to the Netherlands, for example.