Edited by Jane Rosemarin

A party bus, chocolate-wrapper folding, and more . . .

One thing I like very much about the Origami Bogotá convention is its public call for the national guest. If you are Colombian and consider that you deserve to be one of the convention’s special guests, then you can simply apply. That is what I did in 2020, thinking the lockdown would be over soon. Boy, was I wrong! The national guest that year was chosen by three former international guests of the convention: Nicolás Gajardo from Chile, Román Díaz from Uruguay and Oriol Esteve from Spain. On that occasion, they chose two national guests: Alexander Oliveros and me. I love this system, and wish other conventions around the world adopted it, not only for national but also international special guests: an open call for those origamists who consider themselves to have merit, followed by a selection process.

Robert J. Lang filled the bill as the international guest. The event was postponed for two years, but we finally had two-and-a-half amazing days in 2022. It was held in an old university with colonial architecture, the Rosario University in downtown Bogotá.

From left to right: me, Robert J. Lang, María "Mechas" Acosta (the head organizer of the convention) and Alexander Oliveros; I am wearing the official scarf of the event. Photo by the origamist and photographer Oscar Osorio.
Participants were given this kit, beautiful and ecological, the case having been made from unlaminated cardboard. Several of the items were donated by the sponsors of the event.

Most of the convention consisted of workshops given by some of the attendees and by the special guests. There were six simultaneous workshops, each one in a different classroom. The great majority of them consisted of learning how to fold a model, and most of them were taught by the creators.

Since I was one of the special guests, I offered four workshops. The convention had a special section called “origami kids,” which is for children who do not have much experience in paper folding, although you can also find some adults attending these workshops. I gave two of the workshops for origami kids: an open-ended creative activity and a solution-based challenge.

And I took only two workshops; if I have learned anything from my previous conventions, it is that it is better not to program every minute but instead to leave free time to do other things and take everything with ease. Convention time goes so fast! I took the workshops for the models at the top of the following photo, and my wife, Naty Nefesh, took the workshops for the two at the bottom.

Unicorn, created and taught by Juan David Bernal; Four-legged Crane, created and taught by Michael Shannon; Hippopotamus, created and taught by David Martínez; Lips Cube, created and taught by Alexander Oliveros.

On Saturday, we – the special guests – were invited to a delicious lunch with some of the people behind the event: one of the perks for being their guests but also a token of appreciation from them to us. It was at a restaurant I really like, Crepes & Waffles. Everything tasted so good, and the company was a pleasure.

Right after that, a group interview was held with the three of us. Definitely one of the activities I enjoyed the most. Alejandro Erazo took the role of the interviewer. He did an excellent job. Very interesting questions, and he knew how to keep the conversation flowing.

On the platform, from left to right: Alejandro Erazo (interviewer), Alexander Oliveros and Robert J. Lang (interviewees), Lina Restrepo (interpreter), and me (interviewee). Photo by David Martínez.

At one point, Alejandro asked us what we thought about a hypothetical future in which diagrams would be completely replaced by videos. I replied that we should not worry about that because by then we would probably all be dead. Everyone was perplexed by my answer and started to laugh.

We also had a trading card swap and pin exchange. I enjoyed the fact that the pin exchange was so informal. Whoever wanted to participate simply came with origami pins to give away or exchange with others anywhere and at any time, for instance, between workshops and in the corridors. The scarf they gave us and the lanyard were perfect for wearing all the pins we received.

I was given these pins during the three days.

The trading card swap, on the other hand, was much more formal. We had to note beforehand, on the registration form, that we would participate. We were asked to prepare a series of trading cards, of the standard size, that included flat origami and some specific information on the back. But not everyone followed the rules about flatness or size.

During the event, the logistics team collected all the cards and arranged them on a table so that those of us who participated could take one from each group. Here they are on the table:

Aside from all that, there was also the chocogami contest. In Colombia we have a very popular chocolate bar that has been around for decades, the Jet chocolate bar. (There’s nothing special about it except that it comes with a sticker to place in Jet’s official album. The sticker themes have changed over the years. The current one is Colombia: flora, fauna, history, culture, etc.) During the contest, the participants were given a Jet chocolate bar. They had to open it, remove the sticker and use one or both wrappers – the inner one made of waxed paper and the outer one made of metallic paper – to fold right there whatever was on the sticker. There was a children’s section, and a teenager and adult section. A group of judges chose the winners.

Here they are participating:

Photo by David Martínez, which I cropped a bit.

The winner of the teenager and adult section was Jhonatan Rodríguez from Santiago de Cali, Colombia, who folded the ingredients for a changua. A changua is a traditional soup from Bogotá and its surroundings that is made with milk and includes eggs, scallions, cilantro and coriander. I confess I do not like that soup at all. This was Jhonatan’s fold and the corresponding sticker:

Photo by David Martínez, which I cropped a bit.

I also want to tell you about the Colombian party bus (chiva rumbera). It is a colorful bus with just a few seats that tours the city while people celebrate inside with music, different colored lights, dancing and drinking. It is a very Colombian activity. The party bus is another of the flagship activities of Origami Bogotá. Although, to be honest, I did not get in on this occasion.

Photo taken by David Martínez.

I wish to finish by writing about the convention’s exhibition. Here is a video recorded by Naty Nefesh:

This is the display by the national guest, Alexander Oliveros. Unfortunately, he had removed two of his folds before I took the photo:

And this is Robert J. Lang’s:

This is a picture of mine:

The organizers of the convention held a contest for best of the exhibition, which was chosen by voting. The winner was Andrés Sierra. This was his display:

We were not allowed to vote for Lang’s works. Personally, I think Alexander Oliveros should have won: aesthetically pleasing folds with a beautiful color scheme. It had a clearer theme and offered more breathing room. At least, that is my opinion.

Origami Bogotá was a blast. What makes it so much fun was definitely the people, followed by the activities offered. There will be a new version this year, June 9-11, so you can experience it yourselves. The international guest will be the talented Fernando Chura Huanca from Bolivia, and this time, instead of the usual national guests, there will be three “not-so-national guests.” They are origami creators who were born in another country but have been living in Colombia for some time. They are Michael Shannon who was born in the U.S., Christophe Boudias, who was born in France, and David Martínez, who was born in Venezuela.

See you at Origami Bogotá 2023!