Pacifist Banksy with his art in Ukraine


photo. PAP/Vladyslav Musiienko Banksy can definitely be described as “mysterious”. Although he has been known around the world for years, his identity remains unknown. It is known that he was born in Bristol, Great Britain, and it is there, walking the streets (but also at exhibitions), that we can find the most works of this great master of graffiti. Banksy creates his street art in a very distinctive style, often combining graffiti with the stencil technique. He does not use colors so that the recipient can simply drown in the most important message for the author. This one is most often political, social or ecological. However, it is not always possible to decipher it immediately – Banksy hides behind a mask of irony and black humor, while maintaining huge distances to himself and the world. He creates his works not only in his hometown of Bristol or London, but also in places where something is happening and, as it were, asks for a comment. He left his mark, for example, in Bethlehem, where he painted a dove in a bulletproof vest. Now he has turned his eye (and spray) to war-torn, suffering Ukraine.

An acrobat on the ashes

In November, the first mentions of mysterious murals on the ruins of Ukrainian, often abandoned cities, began to appear. First, a gymnast was spotted balancing on her hands in the ruins of a building destroyed by a Russian rocket. It was debated whether it was painted by Banksy himself, but Banksy eventually admitted authorship. The place where the mural was created is the Ukrainian Borodzianka in the Kiev region, which was inhabited by over 13,000 people before the war. After the bombing by the Russian forces, about 90 percent of the inhabitants were forced to flee. The shapely body of the gymnast, her lightness and agility contrast with the ruins of the houses. Terror and quiet anxiety are added to the whole scene by cables protruding from the concrete and ominous rods. The girl somehow gives peace to these ruins, while reminding about the macabre that takes place in Ukraine.

Judo duel with Vladimir himself

The most commented and most popular one is the mural depicting a boy knocking out an adult man with one throw. Both are dressed in judo uniforms, which becomes crucial to understanding this graffiti. Associations quickly emerged that the man represents Vladimir Putin, who has the black – the highest – belt in this discipline and until February was the honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation. Banksy, however, did not confirm this interpretation.

Morning with a fire extinguisher in hand

Another mural – in Hostol – shows a woman in rollers on her head, dressed in an ordinary dressing gown, but with a gas mask on her face and a fire extinguisher in her hand. Painted by the window of a destroyed house, this work takes on a grotesque character, to say the least. Interestingly, in early December, the work was removed from the wall. Shortly after the incident, a group of people responsible for its theft were caught and arrested. The detainees explained that they wanted to sell the street work in order to get money to help the Ukrainian armed forces. The governor of the Kiev region, after recovering the mural, said: “These images are, after all, symbols of our fight against the enemy. These are stories about the support and solidarity of the entire civilized world with Ukraine. We will do everything we can to preserve these street art as a symbol of our victory.” Such actions of an artist with a global reach – and Banksy with 12 million followers on social networks certainly has them – scream for attention and constantly remind of the ongoing, sometimes just “across the border”, human dramas. And that’s good, because you shouldn’t forget while devoting yourself to everyday matters.

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