Agriculture is joining forces with hip hop in the Colombian city Medellín to help build strong and resilient communities in an area where gang violence once prevailed for decades.
The initiative, Agroarte, was set up by Colombian rapper El AKA, creating ‘Jardines resistentes de vida’ (resistant gardens of life) to maintain a united community through gardening.
El AKA grew up in a working-class neighbourhood of Medellín where street gangs ruled. At a young age, he was caught up in the violence that eventually brought the city to its knees. Unlike most of his friends, however, El Aka knew that he had to find a way out and turned to hip-hop and his love of gardening for salvation.
The rapper became a community leader and an inspiration to young people of Comuna 13 – the district that was once considered the most violent and dangerous place in Medellín -by founding Casa Morada, a community and culture centre that organises agricultural and musical activities for marginalised youth.
Agroarte teaches young people to develop agricultural skills — sowing seeds, tending soil and growing gardens — while helping youth to build confidence through music. Taking El AKA’s lead, who plants seeds then sings, members of Casa Morada often write and sing their own hip-hop music creations or perform covers of their favourite songs for each other.
The project links children, women, young people, and adults who, through hip-hop music, literature, storytelling, and agriculture, seek to build an environment away from the violence and social problems which, for too long, permeate the city communes.
These cultural expression are the most natural that come from the neighborhoods of Medellín. With the gardens, which grow vegetables and fine herbs, the community began to slowly appropriate sites that had always been theirs and they began to tell stories that had been silenced out of fear.
The combination of agriculture and art has worked well to unite both Medellín’s younger and older inhabitants. El AKA said: “Hip-hop attracts young people, and agriculture the older ones. Hip-hop is from the street, but below the street is soil. And the soil contains our history and memories.”
Images Credit: Agroarte Facebook Page
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com