Pride and Healing: Medellín’s new generation of artists are a driving force for positive change

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Following on from its first episode, Underground Dubai: Where Art and Music Collide which premiered last month – the second instalment of the Vuse Street Covers series joins electronic music phenomenon Anfisa Letyago and iconic album cover designer Brian Cannon in the vibrant Colombian city of Medellín. In the episode, they hear from inspiring local artists who are utilising creativity as a means of spreading healing and civic pride.

The Street Covers docuseries from Vuse follows Anfisa and Brian as they explore the burgeoning underground creative scenes in Dubai, Barcelona, Medellín, Johannesburg and Liverpool, and the local talent driving them forward.

Announced in March this year, Street Covers is a unique global platform from Vuse, created to shine a light on artists and creatives operating outside of the mainstream. The new platform marks history for the brand which celebrates 10-years of championing up-and-coming talent and charging beyond in creativity.

A Spotlight on Medellín’s Creative Scene gives viewers an uncompromising insight into the sights, sounds, tastes, and textures of Medellín; following a new generation of young people who are casting off the shackles of their city’s turbulent past through the means of art and music.

In this episode we meet singer and songwriter Solizantana and street artist ManuRat — both children during cartel violence in the ‘90s, growing up to view music and art as a means for positive change in their community. “I hope people can take away from the Medellín Street Covers episode a different side of the city’s music and art scene,” says Solizantana. “This city has so many layers and I hope we expressed one of the many as best as we could.”

Brian and Anfisa join Solizantana on a tour of food stalls and other local delights, with Brian remarking on how the city has changed since his last visit. “I was there in the 90s and clearly it was a very dangerous place back then,” Brian tells Mixmag following the trip. “The vibe was entirely different. The areas we visited, like Comuna 13, would have been completely off limits.”

Anfisa on the other hand, who has extensively visited South America on her travels as a DJ, is much more familiar with the country now: “I love Colombia, I’ve played there several times and I always enjoy the energy of the audience. I am from the South of Italy and South American people in general are very similar to us in terms of their welcoming and warm spirit, I feel almost at home when I’m there.”

She continues: “Medellín is so powerful, you can feel the energy and get a taste of the culture just by walking through the streets. People are really passionate about electronic music, so it’s always a pleasure to go back.”

ManuRat gives us an intimate look at the underground street art community that she’s a part of, not seen as vandalism — but as urban beauty. Coming from a fine art background, the artist explains her natural and otherworldly inspirations: “I believe that everything initially stems from nature,” she says. “There’s an infinite connection between the macro and micro of the universe, as everything in existence is united by the natural world.”

“Urban art allows me to share this, portraying humans and nature in murals and graffiti, and bringing the wild into the urban. It’s also important for me to illustrate and depict the image of women as special beings that play a significant role in the world.”

Brian, who has travelled far and wide for his work as an album sleeve artist, is clearly moved by the graffiti visible all over the city. “Wherever you went in the city there was very colourful graffiti, and it’s interesting to see how it varies in all these different places,” he says. “There’s a figurative style in Medellín, almost like a cartoon style I guess. And the fact that even in the Comunas, which would have been those no-go areas for tourists in the past, there are now art galleries. It’s just amazing.”

In the film, we see ManuRat showing elements of her artwork to Brian, who guides her through the process of creating a piece of art that reflects Solizantana’s track created for the Street Covers project, Azul Cyan. “I truly loved working with Brian,” she says. “I think he’s an excellent artist. The entire creative process flowed smoothly from beginning to end. We were aligned; he understood my ideas and creations, and I also felt happy and comfortable with his contributions and support. It was a wonderful learning experience.”

Likewise, Solizantana says Anfisa guided her with “peace and tranquillity” in the journey of creating her track, allowing her to go with her instincts instead of aiming for perfection or a “proper arrangement.” Commenting on the track Anfisa says, “You can easily feel where she takes her inspiration from: nature, the sea, the sun, her home city. This is something we have in common. The real power of the track though is the fact that it allows you to discover Soli through it, if you listen carefully it’s almost as if you’re transferred into Soli’s realm.”

Solizantana and ManuRat collaborated closely together over the course of several months, weaving their styles and stories together, with Solizantana developing a track that represented her journey of creative discovery, and ManuRat creating a piece of cover art that brings the tracks to life.

“Being on this project with ManuRat was a blessing,” Solizantana says. “I learned a lot from her and got to know her perspectives in life and creation. We worked super close on everything to do with the song, the cover art, the scenery, the merch, the colours, and the styles. I think it was so cool to blend both our styles and knowledge in this project about our city Medellín.”

“This project impacted me for many reasons, one is that it made me feel that what I do as a musician and artist can be communicated to diverse groups of people,” says Solizantana. “Going into this career without knowing the outcomes you’re really just flying without knowing where you’ll land, I do this because it’s what’s natural to me and makes me feel alive. This project made me feel more confident and grateful, that the world is full of possibilities.”

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Watch A Spotlight on Medellín’s Creative Scene below.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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