The city of Mariupol, located in the eastern part of Ukraine, has accepted a generous number of internally displaced people (IDPs) since the 2014 crisis concerning the Ukrainian border with Russia.
In July 2016, the city council voted in favor of adopting the declaration of “City of Solidarity,” in collaboration with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The municipality is very devoted to diversity and restoration of peace.
Over the Wall, reflecting this theme of solidarity and peace, was invited by the city of Mariupol with the support of the local UNHCR office to draw a mural on walls that had been damaged during military conflict. The aim was to bring oppressed persons, including IDPs, and the Mariupol citizens together to participate in creating murals.
Further, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ukraine, and the Ukraine government has decreed this year as the Year of Friendship with Japan. This project was carried out as a part of this framework.
The mural commemorates the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ukraine. It portrays people all over the world running on a street in the same direction while holding each other’s hands. On both sides of the road, there are cherry blossoms, a symbol of Japan. At the opening ceremony for the mural, actual cherry trees were planted in front of the mural.
The theme for the mural comes from Ukraine’s classic national folk story, “The Mitten.” This tale, also very well known in Japan, is about a number of animals who find a mitten one cold, snowy day, and all of them seek refuge inside. To each newly arrived animal, the ones inside give a generous welcome, even in such a tiny space, and all of them get to share the warm mitten. Over the Wall chose this theme because its message very much resonates with the same sense of solidarity and peace which the City of Mariupol holds in its declaration as the “City of Solidarity.”
In the drawing, inside this mitten, are Ukrainians from all regions of the country, including Podolia and the Carpathians, as well as people from other parts of the world. On the palm of the mitten sit the famous Ukrainian Easter Eggs, and some chicks have hatched out due to the warmth of the mitten. The message conveyed in this picture is that the compassion of people hatches eggs of hope and makes the way for the future.
A workshop for the Ukrainian children was organized in order to create a flag for children in Ecuador, the next destination for the Over the Wall project. The flag will be delivered there next year, after which it will travel on to another country.
Using art supplies kindly donated by Sakura Color Products Corp, art lectures were given by Kensuke Miyazaki to participating children, many of whom are of refugee and IDP status, in Mariupol and Kyiv. They freely drew whatever they liked, and prizes were awarded for particularly creative pieces.
I was on open wasteland with no shade to protect me from the strong sunshine. I needed to climb up and down 10 meters on a scaffold to make a few changes on the mural, and my feet got scratched a lot. I climbed right up to the top where I could see the port on the Sea of Azov and a countless number of chimneys. A taxi driver had told me that this whole city smells like iron. This city, with its Ancient Greek roots, has unusual monuments in the form of steel factories built during the Soviet era. Apartments, built for the factory workers, are dilapidated and moreover show severe damage caused by the bombardment 3 years ago.
This mural painting project in City of Mariupol, Ukraine took place under the tensest circumstances I’ve experienced so far. A battle front facing Russia and a no-go zone were just a few kilometers away. The city however accommodates over 40,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) fleeing from neighboring towns like City of Donetsk. Our Over the Wall team had been preparing for this project together with a local UNHCR office under the theme of “City of Solidarity” this year. On the very first day we arrived at Mariupol, it made me honestly quite nervous to see from the car window an intimidating view of heavy rain, closed gates blockading the roads leading to the battle front, and traces of gunfire damage. Nonetheless, as we proceeded working on the mural, the children in the same neighborhood started coming around us to play and try to communicate with us.
” Добрий день! Спасибо! “
We only knew these words to speak to each other, but those were actually all we needed to get to know each other. In this way, we started to slowly mingle with the town’s people. Thanks to various media coverage on our project, we became a bit like celebrities.
The completed mural expresses a sincere wish for peace. Inspired by a traditional Ukrainian folktale “The Mitten”, I drew the people with different ethnic, religious, and vocational backgrounds huddling together in a giant mitten in the cold Winter. Big Easter eggs, also originating in Ancient Ukraine, are hatched by the warmth of the people. Then the chicks grow up and fly over the sky, bringing back joy to the people.
I feel immensely honored to have created this mural, which I hope can act as a bridge between Japan and Ukraine, in the year which marks the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship. I hope that the mural becomes a symbol of peace in the city, conveying warmth to the hearts of many Ukrainian people.
Over the Wall – world mural project Artist
School No.68 in Mariupol
29th July 2017
1,100 x 1,100 cm
Art-zavod Platforma in Kyiv
7th July 2017
345 x 1,100 cm
Etsuko Chida / UNHCR Ukraine
© Over the Wall